Ann Freerks announced on Thursday she is running for the vacant at-large seat on the Iowa City Council. Although it’s Freerks’ first run for public office, she’s no stranger to city government.
Freerks, who has lived in Iowa City for 33 years, served on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission for 17 years. Before that she was a member of the Iowa City Historic Preservation Commission. While on the Historic Preservation Commission, Freerks helped the city create the first Neighborhood Conservation District in Iowa.
But her involvement in community issues goes back further than her time on those city commissions.
Two decades ago, Freerks worked with neighbors in the Longfellow neighborhood in an successful effort to keep redevelopers from adding multi-resident buildings intended as student housing to the neighborhood on a scale that would have substantially altered the area’s character.
“I created a connection with place and with people, and I had a great understanding for the love that so many people have for our community,” Freerks said during an interview at Little Village’s office. “It was a long drawn-out process, and a lot of ugly things happened, because there was a lot of money at stake.”
“Afterwards, I felt a duty to do something to give back.”
That led to Freerks joining the Historic Preservation Commission, and then the Planning and Zoning Commission. Freerks completed her final term on the commission in June.
“I thought, I have all of this knowledge and I have a desire to try to continue to do what I can to help the community,” Freerks said, when asked why she decided to run after the special election was announced last week. “In my time on the commission, I tried to bring lots of different people together, and I was always open to having difficult conversations, to come up with the best solutions.”
In addition to her work with the city commissions, Freerks, a creative coordinator in the UI Office of Strategic Communications, has worked with other nonprofits active in the community, including the Iowa City Community School District’s Any Given Child. The program is designed to provide equitable access to the arts for all of the district’s students.
“We want to make sure that all children have a chance to be exposed to music, theater, visual arts, writing and other such things,” Freerks said.
Freerks sees the work she does with zoning and planning and the work she does with groups like Any Given Child as complementary.
“All these things are connected, all the issues facing the community are,” she said. “Affordable housing, transportation, schools — it’s all connected.”
Freerks said she wants to help create, “decent, adequate neighborhoods with sustainable living environments for everybody.” She added, “You also have to have development in the city, in order to do all things you want to do, but as you start new developments, you have to do it the right way.”
Along with Freerks, Ryan Hall, Brianna Wills, Christine Ralston and Bruce Teague are running for the at-large seat that became vacant with Kingsley Botchway resigned. There will be a primary on Sept. 4, and the two candidates who receive the most votes will face each other in the Oct. 2 special election.