Smirking Wellington Mayor brings personality, fun, and efficiency to city government
Wellington Mayor Anne Millington Gerwig is not your typical politician. Being true to herself is a priority for the wife, mom of three, and grandmother of two—along with an endearing sense of humor. “I’m proud that my Facebook page sounds like a normal person and not a politician because the word ‘politician’ is not a nice word to call somebody, which is sad,” she notes.
Perhaps one of the things Gerwig is most well-known for is her “smirk photo,” taken during a particularly contentious meeting. “I was looking at the Village attorney with that face,” she explains. “I wasn’t unhappy with him or anything; I just kind of doubted what he was saying. And I made that smirk. It’s hard in local government. After the first few meetings, you have to watch yourself on the video to see how often you roll your eyes and make a certain face. My mom used to tell me to stop making that face, or it’ll stay that way, but that meeting was not very pleasant. Someone was sent to photograph us and kind of throw us off. Of course, it showed up on social media.”
Rather than run from the photo, Gerwig embraced it. “I actually love that picture,” she says. “My daughter, who is now an adult with two daughters of her own, found a picture of three-year-old me and displayed them side-by-side on Facebook with the comment, ‘Mom, you haven’t changed a bit.’ It was funny because evidently, I’ve been making that smirk a very long time. Instead of letting it insult me, I embraced it and thought, ‘Well, we don’t always have great pictures, do we?’”
Gerwig’s journey to Mayor of Wellington began in 2010 when she ran for Village Council at the encouragement of many residents due to her community involvement in traffic-calming issues. “I live on Paddock Drive, which is a thoroughfare,” she explains. “We are right between a middle school and an elementary school, and traffic and speeding were a real problem over the years. I had gotten involved with calming requests with the Village Council, and I was successful. Lizbeth Benaquisto was our Councilwoman at the time. She was term-limited and running for State Senate. She and many other people—including PTA moms and my neighbors, who were happy about the traffic-calming, encouraged me to run.”
Gerwig was elected to Village Council in 2010, then re-elected in 2014. “It was a tough time in Wellington,” she explains. “There was a lack of good leadership from the mayor. And I ended up resigning my position to run against the seated mayor in 2016. My husband Alan was the one who urged me to run in the first place, which was beyond the ‘Honey, you’re good at this. You did some traffic calming.’ I was a land surveyor technician and worked in land planning. I was a draftsman. I’ve worked for engineering firms my entire adult life, so I had some grasp of land use. My husband encouraged me to run for mayor because he felt I would enjoy it and have some life apart from my family, which is important. Because the meetings at the time were so bad, he felt as if he’d rather I ran and lost than sit through another two years of the status quo. I got to be mayor because we needed better leadership.”
What is Gerwig most proud of when she considers her tenure as mayor?
Bringing back sensible meetings, thanks to the training she has taken through the League of Cities and her participation in the local Palm Beach County League of Cities, where she served as president about four years ago. “I wasn’t happy that all of our meetings, no matter what was on the agenda, were going to one or two in the morning because things were being drawn out. In my mind, the city’s business was not being conducted properly. I’m proud that we are no longer the laughingstock. We were known for contentious meetings for a while, although I will say I’m passionate about what I believe. I probably am the worst of the Council I started with now regarding emotional responses. We have three attorneys on the council who are used to debating and arguing, but one other PTA mom—which is more my background—and I am not.”
Sometimes her emotions get the best of her because of her convictions and love of the Village. Still, she says, “We are not the laughingstock of cities anymore for our behavior on the dais.”
Being a person of faith helps keep Gerwig grounded in an age of fake news. “The one thing I’ve learned through the spiritual journey is that your ego isn’t a part of real life; you don’t get to have that. You’re not really in charge of anything. There are so many things in this universe that are completely out of my control. If I don’t like a picture on Facebook, or I don’t like some press I’ve gotten, I have to check my ego at the door. She recalls making a flippant comment during a recent meeting when debating the topic of artificial turf. “I said something like, ‘I don’t like artificial things. I don’t even color my hair, but I wouldn’t leave my house without makeup.’ Well, the Palm Beach Post came out with ‘I don’t color my hair as my statement instead of publishing my full quote. They never really do capture the story and what I say, but that’s part of life.”
Family remains vital to Gerwig, along with her mayoral responsibilities. “Local government is the government closest to the people,” she says. “Anybody can talk to me anytime. If you see me at Publix and you don’t like the timing of the traffic light, or you wish you had a stop sign, or you don’t like your kids’ bus stop, these are the kinds of things we work on. I love being in close contact with Wellington residents and solving these problems.”
To connect with Mayor Anne Gerwig, click here.
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