soundcloud By Emily Geving
I decided to job shadow Eau Claire City Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle for this assignment. Emmanuelle was appointed to City Council in 2012 and officially elected in 2013. She is the first Latinx to serve on the Council.
Emmanuelle, then 31, graduated the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire cum laude in 2011 with dual degrees in women’s studies and economics. A non-traditional student, she had a young daughter at the time and felt the need to go back to school.
When I mused on how different her disciplines were, Emmanuelle laughed and corrected, “And how very alike!”
She spoke of her feminist economics course and how studying both disciplines can impact marginalized groups: You learn about achievement gaps and the structures in place that allow these gaps to exist and persist.
She felt that the opportunity to create real change could be found in public service, and so she ran for City Council.
On City Council, Emmanuelle is a member of several boards: The Economic Policy Advising Committee, Affirmative Action, Sustainability Advising Committee, and Visit Eau Claire that she meets with each month.
Official City Council meetings take place Mondays and Tuesdays on the first and third weeks of each month at City Hall. Monday is a public hearing, and Tuesday is the voting day.
When I asked Emmanuelle about some of her proudest accomplishments on Council, she points to seemingly simple resolutions she voted yes on; like implementing a sidewalk or a lamppost.
These things, Emmanuelle said, are incredibly important to social advancement. Having a path to walk or ride a bike, being able to see clearly and navigate safely is important in getting people to work or school. This, in turn, contributes to the health and success of individuals and communities.
Other Council accomplishments Emmanuelle cited were leading the efforts to study the Paris Agreement and implement those environmental practices in Eau Claire.
She pioneered Books on the Bus, which placed a bookshelf of free books on every public bus in the city.
Emmanuelle believes in being an advocate for all individuals she serves, even those she disagrees with.
After the February 27th Council meeting, a member of the community approached Emmanuelle and voiced a strong opinion about an issue that would be voted on the next day. Emmanuelle listened intently, and her facial expression seemed to say, “I hear you.”
When Emmanuelle and I met moments later, she told me that though she disagreed with the person’s opinion, it was her job as a public servant to be an advocate.
She said she assured the person that she would assist them however she could. “Anything I could do to help them collect and connect with information, I would do anything in my power to,” she said to me.
I found Catherine Emmanuelle to be a fascinating person to accompany for this assignment. She expresses compassion to the people she serves and works intently to find solutions to community problems. Because of this assignment, I now know a friendly face on the Council and know that I have representation in my city that will advocate for me.