As the city council elections draw nearer, Inside Eau Claire will update you with interviews from each city council candidate.
By Chi Ab Vang
Catherine Emmanuelle is currently serving as an at-large representative on the Eau Claire City Council. She’s felt a great sense of community ever since she arrived in Eau Claire in 2000. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, as a non-traditional student, with a degree in Women’s Studies and Economics. Emmanuelle said she is happy to give back to a community that has given her and her family a unique life.
Chi Ab Vang: What made you want to get into politics?
Catherine Emmanuelle: I didn’t wake up one day and think ‘Hey, I’m going to go into community leadership.’ My eyes were very open to the community and there were, quite frankly, several people who invited me to be a part of the community. That evolved into taking some leadership positions. What really opened my eyes to think about public policy was my experience as a parent. I raised my daughter as a single parent and lived under the poverty level, put myself through school and worked. And my eyes were opened up to public policy in a different way — I think because of my experience of a different economic perspective. That really inspired me to think about having more people with different lived experiences, who have a high talent and high capacity to contribute to their community and be involved in leadership. That’s some of what fuels and sparks my service to the community.
CV: What experiences do you have that make you well fit for the city council?
CE: I am a current city council member and so I think just having that practical experience of being a policy maker is a real asset for our community. Some of the qualities that I bring to the table are someone who is well read; I do my research on issues that come up. I think one of the biggest things is that I bring a real sense of authenticity to my leadership, that what you see is what you get. In public you see who I am and behind closed doors I’m still the same authentic person.
CV: What is the most important duty of the position?
CE: The most important thing is policy; how do leaders use policy. For me, when I look at the word ‘policy’ or ‘politics’ there’s the common word—which is P-O-L-I-S—that’s the polis, and the polis is about the people. When I see policy, I look at policy as a way to connect people and connect lives. So every time we’re making a legislative decision, every time we’re making a policy decision, I always remember that this is about the people.
CV: Why are you running for city council?
CE: Because Eau Claire is an exceptional community and Eau Claire has given me a great life. It’s an opportunity to give back to a city that has given my family and me a unique, one-of-a-kind, great life.
CV: What is the biggest challenge you have faced while running?
CE: There seems to be, and historically has been, a lower voter turnout for local elections. The vote on April 2matters, although it doesn’t get as much publicity like state or national elections. I don’t think this challenge is unique to me, I think it is a challenge that is unique to all local government elections. Having people engaged, involved and knowledgeable about who their local representatives are is really important.
CV: What makes you the best choice for city council?
CE: I have a strong undergraduate background with an emphasis in economics. Someone who’s had a breath of experience with different economic levels and strong economics background, as myself, I’m able to perhaps cast a vision to maximize our vision even amidst difficult budget times. Also, I have a strong civic engagement background and I know what it’s like to be a student, I know what it’s like to be a parent, I know what it’s like to be a policy maker. I’ve made mindful efforts to get people involved.
CV: Are there any areas of the job where you feel you might have weaknesses?
CE: One thing that I’ve learned about leadership is that, real leaders are okay with not knowing every last tiny detail. What we need in leadership is not a micro-manager; we need visionary people who know how to sort through the nuts and bolts. For me and my leadership there will be things that I’m not an expert in, but what I’ve learned through leadership is it where we should draw our strength on collaboration.