Ann is humble but she has a lot to be proud of. Not only is she a mother of three girls and a master’s educated professional, but she is also now role modeling women in leadership for her girls, teaching them they can do anything they set their minds to with kindness and courage.
Ann walks into the chamber of the city council and greets some early arrivers with kind smiles and handshakes. Her warmth makes everyone feel welcome but inside she’s nervous. She never imagined she would be here.
And then she takes a seat at the council table and sees her nameplate. She takes a deep breath, smiles, and waits for the chairman to call the meeting to order. It is her first time as a member of Brecksville City Council.
Ann grew up the youngest of five in Garfield Heights. Her siblings are 11 to 16 years older than she is. Her parents divorced when she was just two years old and her mother raised the kids on her own.
“I’ve always thought of her as an amazing role model,” Ann said.
Today all five siblings live within 20 minutes of each other and Ann has become the primary caretaker of her mother. She has ALS now. Of all five kids, Ann was the only one that went to college. She studied political science at Baldwin Wallace and went on to get a master’s in Urban Planning Design and Development at Cleveland State.
“I always liked being behind the scenes,” she said. “I never thought I would be IN politics.”
She went on to work at Eaton Corp. until she quit her career to stay home with her kids.
“It was hard. I had worked so hard,” she said. “I knew I was going to do it, but finally executing that plan, it was hard.”
Ann said she was lost for a couple of years after becoming a stay-at-home mom. They had just moved to Brecksville. But eventually, she met some good people that are still friends today. She joined the PSO, joined lots of committees, was a room mom, a softball coach…
“I volunteered as much as I could,” she said.
She and her husband Charlie had met when she was working three jobs, in between her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees. She was a waitress at Fox & Hound in Parma and he had come in to play pool with friends. That was 2001 and they married in 2005. Charlie is a physician with a private practice in Parma.
Together, Ann and Charlie have three girls, Savannah, 13, Mallory, 11, and Victoria, 9 and Charlie also has a daughter Juliette who is 22.
Ann said she cried when Savannah became a teenager.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I had been a mom for 13 years.”
She said she feels blessed that her girls get along really well. They all have very different personalities, she said.
“Nothing makes me happier than to hear them laughing together,” she said. “My biggest piece of advice for them is to just be nice to each other. You’re all going to have bad days, so be kind.”
It was Ann’s girls that encouraged her to enter politics. Things were happening in her community and Ann was interested. She and Charlie had started going to meetings.
“I wanted to know more. It brought me back to what I went to school for,” she said.
Ann always stayed on top of national politics but this brought her closer to her local community. At the local meetings, residents were looking for representation at city council.
“It was my girls that said, ‘Mom you should do this, you’re really good at this,’” she said.
Charlie encouraged her, too. “He would have strong opinions and wanted change for a while, and he realized that I was it,” she said.
So, with much support from her family, Ann stepped into the next chapter of her life. They made T-shirts and signs and campaigned for their mom.
Ann said she feared people being mean to her and sadly, it happened.
“That was hard for my kids,” she said. “But we talked about bullying and right and wrong.”
It was a teachable moment for Ann and her girls. Loss was also something they learned about when friends that she ran with didn’t win.
“It was hard. I pursued it, I accomplished my goal but I told the girls, those who lost worked hard too and they also accomplished a goal because people heard them.”
Ann said even after she won, she was still scared. “I never wanted to be out in front. I like writing. Writing is my strength. It was horribly difficult to do public speaking. It still scares me. But sometimes you have to do the hard things to get where you want to be.”
But she is enjoying the experience and is learning a lot. For now, she’s focused on her current term and will revisit running again when the time comes. A lot will change in four years for the Koepke family. She’ll have a junior in high school and her baby will be in middle school.
“Our life is changing all the time, you never know what’s going to come up,” she said.
But whether she remains in council or not, she will always be giving back to her community and trying to set a good example and accomplish goals.
“I want my mom to be proud of me,” she said. “And I want my girls to go after it, even if it terrifies them. I’m so blessed to live where I live. I want to leave things better and knowing I’m capable, it would be a crime not to.”