The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Working toward a better Eau Claire

    Catherine Emmanuelle wants to make people’s lives better, which is one reason why she’s running for an at-large seat on the Eau Claire City Council.

    Emmanuelle moved to Eau Claire about 10 years ago, after completing a nationwide research project, she said. After visiting all 50 states and surveying 13,000 teenagers for a nonprofit organization, she said she saw pictures of Eau Claire online.

    “I thought, ‘This is what America looks like,’ ” she said. “Just seeing the hills and the patchwork of colors in the fall, and seeing snow and seeing swans and seeing lakes and old people out and young people out and people going to school, whether vocational or university, it was like, ‘OK, I want a piece of that.’ ”

    Emmanuelle was born in Oakland, Calif., and grew up in the Bay Area. She was one of two Californian representatives on the research trip, and she said it taught her something about what people across the country want from their lives.

    “We want something to do, we want to have a good life, regardless of economic demographic,” Emmanuelle said. “Everybody wants to have a good life.”

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    Emmanuelle said that helping people have good lives is something she’s always been interested in. If elected, that’s what she said she hopes to do on the Eau Claire City Council.

    Emmanuelle said she asked her daughter, who is 5 years old, what people do on the council. Her daughter said, “I think if you work on the council you get to make rules to make sure people have a good life.”

    Emmanuelle, 30, is a nontraditional student at UW-Eau Claire with a women’s studies major and an economics minor. She said her major-minor combination give her a unique perspective to look at politics and the world. She said women’s studies have helped her understand more about the human condition.

    “A lot of people think women’s studies is all about women,” she said. “Equality isn’t just through women, it’s through all people.”

    Emmanuelle said she has heard a lot of council members talk about the homogeneity of the city council and encourage ordinary citizens to get involved. She takes those words seriously.

    “When I look at the city council, I think that we certainly need ordinary citizens who are extraordinary leaders, who represent the city, working together in harmony and partnership to build the city that our residents want to see,” she said.

    The median age in Eau Claire is 30.5, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a fact Emmanuelle said makes her qualified to represent the community.

    Sophomore Elsa Kraus, also a women’s studies major, met Emmanuelle in class this fall. She volunteered to babysit for her daughter and has ever since. She described Emmanuelle as open and compassionate.

    “I always draw strength from her and her work,” Kraus said.

    Kraus said she is also planning on helping Emmanuelle with her campaign, by knocking door-to-door and helping with her mailing list.

    Emmanuelle is looking out for the community and interested in improving people’s lives, Kraus said, and “who wouldn’t want that?”

    Kraus said some of the issues that matter most to her, as a student, are safe sidewalks, roads and bike trails. She said Emmanuelle is looking to improve those things, too.

    Senior Betty Matthews said she first met Emmanuelle at an on-campus meeting about a year ago. She was struck by Emmanuelle’s unaggressive persistence and patience, she said.

    “I think her skills lend themselves incredibly well to a position like this,” Matthews said.

    Matthews said employment and education are two issues Eau Claire is facing. She said, at a time with limited funding, the city needs to use its resources responsibly.

    “I think she really does care and does enjoy getting together and meeting with and listening to other people, whether that has to do with politics or life in general,” Matthews said. She said it’s a pretty big deal for someone in the area to get her excited about local politics.

    While national elections often get the most media attention, Matthews said local elections have an even bigger impact on people’s everyday lives.

    “I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to vote for someone,” she said.

    Katherine Rhoades, professor and dean emerita of the college of education and health sciences, spoke passionately about her interactions with Emmanuelle.

    Rhoades serves as Emmanuelle’s academic adviser as well as an adviser to her research project, a study of Mamie Till-Mobley’s life. Till-Mobley was an African American woman whose son was murdered in the Chicago area, an event that Rhoades said signaled the beginning of many Civil Rights movements that followed.

    Emmanuelle said she is inspired by Till-Mobley’s life because she took an awful event in her life as a catalyst for change.

    “It is somebody like her that gives me the courage to have honest public dialogue,” Emmanuelle said. “We cannot adequately address the needs and concerns of our communities unless we’re willing to have an honest dialogue about it. We cannot close the door on honest discussion, we cannot suture up the things that may look ugly . bring it to the surface. Let’s talk about it. Only then will we have the opportunity to grow and to flourish in the way our citizens want us to do.”

    During her research on Till-Mobley, Emmanuelle had the opportunity to conduct two high-profile interviews in Chicago with two respected writers in the African-American community. Rhoades sat in on the interviews, too, and said that Emmanuelle did a “remarkable job of establishing rapport, asking poignantly direct questions and then stepping back and listening.”

    Rhoades said she finds Emmanuelle to be a boundlessly enthusiastic student. She said she applauds Emmanuelle for continuing to ask questions.

    “She is never satisfied with easy answers to complex questions,” she said.

    Emmanuelle’s ability to question makes her not only an outstanding student, Rhoades said, but also “bodes so positively for her as an elected official.”

    Rhoades said a women’s studies major is an ideal background for going into politics because it studies power and the effects of social systems.

    Emmanuelle is someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously, but still artfully negotiates serious issues, Rhoades said.

    Emmanuelle ended on a note of equality, saying “you don’t have to have certain acronyms behind your name, you don’t need to have certain dollar amounts behind your name before you’re a somebody. Everybody is a somebody here in our community.”

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