Ann Rathe has a great role model in civic service before her and she is living up to the family legacy.
Her mom, the late Evelyn Rathe, was and remains Waverly’s first and only woman mayor, but before she made that historic record, Evelyn served two terms on the council from 1975 to 1983, in an at-large capacity.
Making her own history, Ann Rathe is the only current council person to have such a deep family connection to Waverly’s city government.
It’s a fact she is proud of, but one that she is unlikely to mention unless asked, as civic service and humility are family values modeled by her parents and grandparents.
Rathe, who is serving a first term as a councilwoman at large, is officially announcing her run for re-election.
Spending four years on the council, one of which was online, because of the coronavirus protocols, has been a life-changing experience for the community-minded doctor.
“It’s been enlightening, it’s been hard work, it’s been rewarding to be of service,” she said.
Rathe praised city staff and the citizens for their resilience and flexibility during the pandemic.
“One thing COVID taught me is that because of the staff we have an operating system and city business, it kept functioning," she said. "Staff were flexible with their protocols to keep things functioning even when the rules of the game were changing on a daily basis.
"We have the groundwork for excellent city services and hire excellent staff, so the city keeps functioning even in a pandemic, and that’s a testament to city staff and to citizens for adapting as best they could. We are fortunate that technology allowed us to keep meeting and stay connected with the council and constituents.”
Rathe, who is a psychiatrist at the Waverly Health Center, said her job has equipped her with skills that may come in handy in local governance.
“My profession — I am hesitant to talk about it as there is a lot of mystery and anxiety about what psychiatrists do — but because of it, I do think I am a good communicator and a good listener and an excellent problem solver," she said.
“I have learned a lot about being on the council, and that reinforced a lot of things I already knew about people and communication and how to make things happen."
She said it is that awareness that causes her to ask in-depth questions of city staff prior to casting a vote and provide constituents with context about a project that has been put forward or its cost.
“Before I give an opinion, I would like to know the background,” she said. “I like to have my facts and hear all sides of an issue, that’s how I make the decisions I do.
“People jump to conclusions about budget items without knowing the decision-making process behind that, I am not perfect but I like to hear people out before I decide. It’s also reinforced my knowledge that you cannot make everyone happy.”
Rathe said she makes decisions with the community in mind, but also weighs in the cost of each decision to the individual resident.
While individual votes are more difficult, she added the budget is by far the most complicated decision because it sets the agenda for the expenditures.
“You have to triage — what has to be done, what could be delayed, what could be rejected,” she said.
She added that her priority is to keep Waverly progressing.
“That’s my biggest fear for Waverly, not to be stagnant,” she said.
She said she evaluates the importance of each project for the community as a whole but also, the impact on each individual household.
“That’s why it's the most complicated decision,” she said.
Rathe said that when she hears comments about “wasteful spending,” she always asks for specifics from the complaining party.
“One thing I learned after looking and listening to the presentations is that the city department heads go into the budget process thinking lean,” she said. “They think how to be fiscally responsible, so there is very little you can trim, and everything they put forward is essential. One person’s wasteful spending is another person’s favorite project.”
She said that while she does not take personal credit, as a member of the council, she is thankful for the Cedar River Park ball diamonds project, for the Human Equity and Diversity Commission and for the “top notch infrastructure project.”
“It’s been a decade of infrastructure improvements, and on the horizon, we can look at non-essential essential services, like the renovation of Memorial Park," she said. "Wavelty as a community should be really proud about how people coped with the pandemic and how we supported businesses and how we have come through that.”
Rathe serves as the council liaison on the Heritage Days committee, on the Senior Center board , and just ended a term on the Bartels board. She volunteers at the Community Garden, is the medical staff president of the hospital as well as a member of the Exchange Club.
Asked why constituents should vote for her, she said:
“I hope people vote for me because I work hard, I take the job seriously, I try to communicate clearly with people. I do my best to answer questions, follow through when they ask me for something, I answer people’s emails even if they disagree with me.
“I am allergic to drama. I want to work for the citizens, and I find that drama distracts from that. I am a commonsense person, I am not impulsive, I look at the big picture but I also think about the impact of each decision on individuals both in terms of quality of life and in terms of financial impact, but I don’t have a slogan other than I am allergic to drama.”
Referring to an anonymous postcard sent to registered voters during the Ward 2 special election in June, which was won by Julie Meyers, Rathe said she hoped the fall campaign would be “respectful and honest.”
“I think that whoever sent the postcard in the Ward 2 campaign, it seemed that they were nervous about what a group of women (along with Ward 4 Councilwoman Heather Beaufore) can do when they work together,” she said. “I don’t think we should be afraid of that, I think we should foster that. Why is it that Waverly has had only one female mayor? We should think about that.”