How a milspouse became a public servant for her city


By Rebecca Alwine

Community involvement has been something military spouses have excelled at for years. But until recently, we haven’t seen many of them break into local politics. Air Force Spouse Anna Blanch Rabe has started paving the way for those who want to get more involved in their local communities.

Recently Blanch Rabe was appointed to the City of Alamogordo Housing Authority Board. Alamogordo, New Mexico is home to Holloman Air Force Base, near White Sands and about an hour-and-a-half drive on very desolate roads, away from Ft. Bliss.

Blanch Rabe is very excited about her new position and is appreciative of the vote of confidence by the City Commissioners.

It’s in her blood

“I like to joke that local politics are in my blood,” Blanch Rabe says. She grew up in a small town where everyone was involved in local politics and service. She worked for a political lobby while attending law school in Australia, where she’s from, and she’s related to two well-loved Australian politicians.

NM Museum of Space History from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Luke Jones, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Before moving to Holloman AFB, Blanch Rabe and her husband were stationed at Cannon AFB. There she served as a Executive Director for Ninth Judicial District Family & Children’s Court Services Inc., a nonprofit that received funding from city, county, and state agencies. Political involvement there would have been a conflict of interest.

“Since this last PCS, I formed my own communications consulting company and serve clients in other parts of the state and the US, so the conflicts don’t exist for me here,” she explained. “I’ve been encouraged by other military spouses to seek out opportunities to serve on boards–I will also be joining the United Way of Otero County Inc. board later this month–and to find ways to gain some experience on the political appointment side as opposed to the employee side. So we could blame them.”

Blanch Rabe joins another local military spouse in Alamogordo local politics. Petria Schreiber was recently appointed to the position of Assistant City Attorney. Schreiber and Blanch Rabe are both members of the Military Spouse JD Network, an organization that is advocating for the ease of job transfer requirements for attorneys. “We know that things can change because things that are supposed to be immovable change all the time for us!”

Moving, moving, moving

Blanch Rabe has lived at these two duty stations in her three-year marriage. Between the two of them, Blanch Rabe and her husband–who has served for 11 years–have lived in 13 American states, 2 Australian states, and 8 countries. “I was pretty familiar with moving my life and my career before we married,” she said.

Though Blanch Rabe served in the Australian army, she admits that being a military spouse has been a completely different experience than wearing a uniform. “I love the people I have met: There’s something empowering about the resilience, the fortitude, and the quiet professionalism of so many military spouses.”

Anna Blanch_Gill Gamble_blog
(Photo: AnnaBlanch.net)

Military spouses are persistent. “Tell us we can’t do something and we’ll find the regulation and show you,” she said. “There is a spot for each and every military spouse on this journey, they may just have to make their own path.

Encouraging others

In almost every level of local government there are opportunities to get involved. There are advisory councils, boards, and committees. They require much smaller commitment than serving in elected office, and for some of them you don’t even have to be registered to vote in that district. “They are a great way to be involved in community affairs in a way that supplements your career or allows you to exercise your skills and experience,” Blanch Rabe says. Even better, the terms are usually 1-3 years, which fits perfectly with almost all assignment timelines.

“To get started submit an application, including your resume, to the city commissioner,” she advised. “Indicate your experience and skills and which committee or advisory point you would like to be appointed. These are unpaid positions but can wield some great experience. Take advantage of the opportunity to be exposed to government affairs and politics. Most of these committees are non-partisan, and the focus is on improving the community.