She’s a lawyer who worked in medical malpractice defense. Now she’s the marketing director, event planner and general counsel for the Norton Commons community. How did one woman end up doing such vastly different jobs? She joined the family business. Marilyn Osborn Patterson had always been drawn to law, so she went to law school at the University of Louisville. She worked in a Louisville firm for a few years but had an opportunity to join her family’s business — Traditional Town, LLC, the development company of Norton Commons — as general counsel. When a marketing position opened up, she took over that job, too. Now she does a little bit of everything at Norton Commons and loves it. Introducing today’s FACE of Louisville, Marilyn Osborn Patterson.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
I went to Centre College (Danville, Kentucky). The liberal arts degree kind of opens your eyes to the importance of good written and oral advocacy, so it was kind of something that I had always had the back of mind. I had a number of marketing internships during college and kept coming back to the idea that businesses need an advocate.
A legal education just seemed to be a really efficient way to learn the skills necessary to serve a company in a really effective way. A legal education teaches you to think critically, to think analytically and to use resources in what I think is a very effective manner. So, I thank my legal education for those skills, and they translate pretty well to what I do in my day-to-day.
How did you get into the New Urbanist movement?
I worked in marketing at Norton Commons right after graduating from Centre, and that was kind of my year off before I went to law school. So I have a background in the development business. After I went out and I practiced on my own, and after graduating from law school, it made sense to come back and help with the family business.
Why do you think New Urbanism is important?
Most of us spend our day-to-day lives being consumed by screen time. That has taken social interaction and personalized interaction away from many of us. So New Urbanism is basically is a design that promotes social behavior. It promotes getting outdoors; it promotes interacting with neighbors. There’s a big-time emphasis on civic and community events here and opportunities for folks to get out and make connections in a good old-fashioned way, which is meeting people on the street. And a lot of people, I think, are looking for that connection. So the design of Norton Commons really heavily stimulates community connectivity.
How did you become the event planner for Norton Commons?
Marketing in a small, family-owned company, it’s like, all hands on deck, all the time. So I kind of just fell back into the marketing area, then came event planning, prep, execution and all that good stuff.
Do you have a mentor, and how has that person shaped your career?
I work for my father, Charles Osborn III. I would say he’s probably my number one mentor. He has a unique approach to business in that he runs a company that is upbeat, collegial, positive and innovative. And he’s always been a very accessible leader. That’s leadership I hope to emulate. My mom is my other mentor. She runs the domestic world and manages it with great efficiency, and I hope that I can get to that level one day. I’m not there yet. I keep working at it.
What do you like best about your job?
The variety. It’s very difficult to get bored around here. I could be prepping for our annual art festival, I could be negotiating a multi-million-dollar contract, I could be booking a band or a concert or even just talking to our residents, working out property management-type issues with them. So there’s a lot of people interaction.
You’re also a fitness instructor. Tell us more about that.
I teach dance fitness and barre at the YMCA at Norton Commons. Group fitness is my focus over there. I think it keeps people accountable and feeding off each other’s positive energy. But also it keeps me fit.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to spend time with my family, which is my husband, my 2-year-old and two furry children.
My husband is Adam Patterson. He’s a children’s emergency room doctor at Norton Children’s Hospital. Probably a lot of people around the city would, unfortunately, recognize his face. My son’s name is James. He’s named after his grandfather. My dog is Millie, and my cat is Bella.
How do you balance your job with your personal life?
I think that working women have to be very purposeful about claiming their family time. I have found it has been an ongoing challenge, and I think it is for all of us working ladies to strike that balance in a way that everybody feels good about. You probably have to be very purposeful in claiming personal time: time to go to the gym, time to work out, time to go get my hair done or whatever it may be. Maybe just to go take a walk around and connect with nature. I find that’s a very grounding activity. Go walk on a trail in Floyd’s Fork or something like that.
What’s your favorite local restaurant?
I would say that right now, at the moment, I am diggin’ the new brunch offered by Mercato Italiano. I’m sure it’s going to be a secret that gets out of the bag quite soon. It’s got a good brunch, a great mimosa bar and a Bloody Mary bar. I love Village Anchor for dinner. And Commonwealth Tap is my favorite place to grab a drink.
What do you love most about Louisville?
The friendliness of its people and emphasis on local business. Not everywhere is like that. I’m so thankful for the local climate of supporting independent business because otherwise, you don’t get those unique businesses, and you don’t get those unique restaurants, and that is such an asset to our city.
What’s something about you that might surprise others?
Up until graduate school, I had pet lizards. I love animals. In my other life, I would have been a veterinarian. I had all kinds of pets growing up, including reptiles. I am glad that I have a son so I can use him as an excuse to get another exotic pet like that.
What’s your best advice?
If you had the opportunity to take a risk to do something different, do it. What I do is totally weird and totally outside the box for some of my former [law school] classmates. But it’s extremely fulfilling. If I hadn’t have taken the risk and diversified, I would never have these fulfilling experiences, these interactions with wonderful unique people and planning what I think are some of the most fun events in our area of town. I’m so glad that I did from a mental health standpoint.
What are three things you can’t live without with the exception of faith, family and friends?
A really good mascara. The occasional very long vacation — I’m talkin’ like 10 days. You just have to turn off for an extended period. I cannot live without my bicycle. I go everywhere on it. I don’t even really use it for exercise. I just use it to get places like stores and work and the gym. Even in freezing cold temps, as long as it’s not icy or rainy, I will ride my bicycle everywhere.
Thank you so much for sharing, Marilyn! And thank you to Gretchen Bell for these beautiful photos.
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