Anne Bannister had never run for something like City Council so it was all a new experience for the 53-year-old lifetime Ann Arbor resident. She was up against Jason Frenzel, who was running to retain the seat he was appointed to after Sabra Brier stepped down last year.
It looked like the two Democrats were in for a close primary race for the coveted Ward 1 seat. And close it was – Bannister won during Tuesday night’s primary by just 115 votes in an evening where the other three races went to the incumbents.
Bannister realized she at least had a chance based on the support she received from friends, neighbors and even some political allies. But she really got the feeling she could win when she started knocking on doors.
“It’s funny but people were generally glad to see me and eager to talk to me,” says Bannister, who has called Ward 1 her home for 27 years. “They wanted to talk about what their concerns were.”
There were several issues Bannister learned along the way – through knocking on doors and meeting as many people as she could – that concerned people more than others and one of those had to do with fiscal responsibility. Everyone wants everything but paying for it and how to pay for it and – most importantly – what gets left out to pay for it was a topic of conversation on many doorsteps.
“A lot of people wanted someone to look at the budget and see how that city budget is effecting our property taxes,” she said. “City government can talk about big plans and big visions and fancy train stations but a lot of folks look around and see the roads are a mess. And they hear the city needs money to fix the sewers and can’t fix the roads until they fix the sewers.”
Bannister learned that the basic services of the local government were being called into question and people were looking not for answers, but solutions.
“There were concerns with the balance of bringing more people into the city helps the tax base but also puts more strain on basic services,” she said. “There was plenty of discussions about getting back to what the city should be doing more of and that’s doing a better job of providing basic services.”
And her background and experience in finance certainly earned her a few votes between the doorsteps and the voting booths.
A financial educator, Bannister spent 30 years educating folks (including as a volunteer in the Ann Arbor public schools) in the field of personal finance, and financial literacy and capability. A certified financial planner, she is a Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor, a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, and a State of Michigan Insurance Licensee.
And from 2009-2016, she served as treasurer, co-chair, and immediate past co-chair for the Ann Arbor Democratic Party.
“I think that mattered to people,” said Bannister, a 1986 graduate from the University of Michigan who has spent the past 11 years as the director of Personal Finance Education Services, Inc., an Ann Arbor-based 501(c)(3) organization. “Fiscal responsibility is important to most people. I think everyone wants that but there are different ways to get there.”
Bannister also congratulated her opponent and looks forward to working with him in the future.
“I recognize it was a close race and a lot of people in the ward are very pleased with Jason’s service to us,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “And I look forward to working with Jason and all of the residents to make sure all of our voices are heard and represented.”
She also believes now that the primary is behind us that it’s time to focus on what’s best for Ann Arbor. And even though she has locked up her seat on the City Council, she is eager to hear what the people have to say on how best to do that.
“I’m really inspired and looking forward to this opportunity,” she said. “We need to set aside who endorsed who and who campaigned for who and put that behind us and work for the greater good.”