The Newest Voice of the North Side
May 14, 2018
Eau Claire’s newest City Council representative for District One of the North Side has been a member of the community for over a decade. Driven by passion rather than political experience, Emily Berge was sworn into office on April 16 after winning the April 2 election.
Berge has lived in the North Side for nine of her 16 years in Eau Claire. She and her husband moved to the city after their engagement the night before their graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Stout; Berge earned her bachelor of science degree in human development and family studies.
After graduation, Berge served for AmeriCorps in the Chippewa Valley for a year, working with runaway and at-risk adolescents. Inspired, she returned to UW-Stout and earned a master of science degree in mental health counseling in 2006.
“I am honored just to hear people’s stories,” Berge said. “It takes a lot of strength to go to counseling.”
Berge has worked in medical facilities, day treatment programs, outpatient offices and in schools in the Chippewa Valley. She now works in private practice, co-owning the Wellspring Counseling & Consulting, LCC office in downtown Eau Claire; going home to her husband and two children in their Princeton Valley neighborhood. Her family, work and love for long jogs were what inspired her–until 2016.
Berge’s routine was transformed after feeling heavily disappointed with the results of the 2016 presidential election.
“I started paying attention,” she said. “The election woke me up.”
Following the election, Berge had a new priority: change. Her passion for making change started at the national level before soon shifting focus locally, which lead to her own election campaign.
Berge joined a chapter of Indivisible, an organization with a goal to resist the Trump agenda. According to Indivisible’s mission statement, they work to build a “strong progressive community by empowering citizens to engage with each other and elected officials through grassroots political action.”
Berge also attended the Women’s March in Minneapolis on January 21, 2017, and continued to take action by contacting her local elected representatives, something she’d never done before.
Berge said she found this experience both empowering and frustrating, as she noticed that many decision-makers at both the local and federal levels were not not easily accessible or engaging actively with their constituents.
On the day of President Trump’s inauguration, Berge went for a 10-mile run to clear her head. Despite her inexperience politically, while on her trail she made the life-changing decision to run for city council, striving to be a leader in her community.
Jacob McGuire, a junior at UW-Eau Claire, managed Emily’s campaign with much more political experience under his belt as a double major in political science and organizational communication. McGuire spent a 1.5 years as president of UW-Eau Claire’s College Democrats organization and has worked on numerous campaigns after moving to Eau Claire in 2015.
“Working with Emily was a completely different experience from other candidates I have worked with in the past,” McGuire said. “She was so eager to get out and actually interact with her constituents, and she rarely went a day without knocking on doors and hearing from voters.”
Berge admitted there were times when it was intimidating to run for city council without prior political experience, and she would frequently need to remind herself to be herself, that was the best thing she knew she could do.
“She was a super active campaigner, and a super positive one as well,” McGuire said. “She showed me that it’s still possible for the good-hearted, nice person to win an election. And that even if we don’t have more money than our opponent, as long as we have a cohesive team and positive energies, we can win big.”
Berge and her supporters were thrilled with the results on April 2. Since being sworn into her City Council seat, Berge has been appointed to the City-County Board of Health and the Visit Eau Claire Tourism & Cultural Arts Grant Program Committee.
“I told myself that I’m going to do something,” Berge said. “I’m going to be the change.”