By Genevieve Laucher, Photos by Teresa Nora Trobbe
For Ann Ravel, making a positive difference in the community is always priority. Between her former position as the Santa Clara County Counsel, overseeing cases at the national level and starting community programs, Ann strives to help those who need it most and make our community the best it can be.
Ann’s parents met in Brazil, where her mother worked for the American Embassy and her father, who was working for an airline as a meteorologist, took a week’s vacation.
Ann’s mother flew out to Peru to where they were married shortly after. Ann’s brother was born in Chile, and the family moved to the United States where Ann was born. They returned to Chile when Ann was about five and her father worked for the U.S. government, but then returned to San Jose when her father got a position teaching at San Jose State.
Ann went to Willow Glen High School and later graduated from UC Berkeley and went on to Hastings Law School. She met her husband, Steve, in high school, and they got married after she finished law school. With most of Ann’s family still in Brazil, they traveled there often. Ann and Steve adopted their oldest son, Aaron, from Brazil. They have two other kids, Gabriel and Shana. Steve works as an adoption lawyer.
The Ravel family moved to Los Gatos in 1988. A great experience for the family was when the Brazilian soccer team playing in the World Cup stayed in Los Gatos. It was like a full-time party in town, and for the first time, Aaron felt a proud connection to his Brazilian heritage. He traveled to Brazil when he was older after graduating college and ended up meeting a young woman there. His story mirrors Ann’s parents – they quickly fell in love and got married, and she moved to the U.S. Aaron and his wife now have two children, ages nine and five, and he works as the head of a wine club in Healdsburg.
The Ravels’ second son Gabriel is also married and has a three-year-old daughter. He attended Harvard Law and was recently appointed by Governor Newsom as the general counsel of the California Health and Human Services Agency. The Ravels’ daughter Shana lives nearby in San Jose and works at the County of Santa Clara like Ann did. Shana says that she and Ann are going to have parallel lives. She has a baby who is ten months old.
Ann worked in the County Counsel’s office for thirty years and was the Santa Clara County Counsel, or lead lawyer for the county appointed by a board of supervisors, beginning in 1998. In this position, she realized the importance not only of responding to litigation, but also of making a real difference in the community. She started programs that are still going on today. One of her areas of focus was educational rights for children, assuring that kids in foster care had their individual educational needs met.
Ann also started a program to prevent elder financial abuse.
She sued financial institutions and relatives that were taking money from seniors who were not aware that this was going on. Through this program, hundreds of thousands of dollars were rightly returned to seniors. This was the first program of its kind in the country and has since been emulated in other counties and states.
Additionally, Ann started a program with a team of lawyers doing social justice affirmative litigation with the intention to bring cases on behalf of the community. The first case they filed was regarding lead paint poisoning. Lead paint had already been outlawed, but it was still on the walls especially in low income communities that did not have enough money to remove it. It caused hundreds of thousands of kids to have brain delays and deficits. Ann filed a case in 2000, other counties and cities signed on, and the case went all the way to the California and U.S. Supreme Courts. The litigation uncovered that the paint companies knew that the paint caused brain damage, but they sold it anyway, and they were ordered to remediate the paint.
In 2017, the paint companies tried to get a measure on the ballot to use state bond money to pay and have the previous judgement null and void. The California legislature considered making an agreement with the companies to take the measure off the ballot but make a deal on the issue. A senator asked Ann whether they should sign the deal and she said no, that the state should not have to assume the companies’ responsibility. It was then that Ann decided she wanted to run for state Senate. She realized how important it was to have someone willing to fight for the county.
Through a number of cases, including a case challenging Prop 8 and a case against tobacco companies which brought smoking cessation funding to the county, Ann came to the attention of the Obama administration. She was asked in 2009 to go to Washington D.C. as a deputy assistant attorney general to oversee torts and consumer litigation. There, she started and oversaw cases including the “Big Short” case, the oil spill in the gulf, and worked on a program to provide compensation for 9/11 responders.
After she worked in D.C. for a couple of years, California Governor Jerry Brown asked Ann to be the chair of the California Fair Practices Commission. She filed a case against the Koch brothers, providing important information to the public and getting back millions of dollars to the state.
In 2013, President Obama nominated Ann to serve on the Federal Election Commission, which she did from 2013 to 2017. She spoke out that the commission was dysfunctional and informed the public about who is behind different political campaigns. She even got to go on the Daily Show and was also interviewed by Zach Galifianakis, Rachel Maddow, and had articles in the New York Times.
When Ann returned to Los Gatos full-time, she began working on civic engagement. She believes that the solution to many issues is for more people to participate in the community, connect, and participate in politics by voting. She taught at Berkeley law school, works at law firms, and started a program at MapLight, a nonprofit in Berkeley, on digital deception. It is important for the public to understand the lack of regulation on the Internet and be able to navigate the propaganda. She recently presented on this topic at the U.S. Senate.
Ann loves being a part of the Los Gatos community. She loves the beauty and spirit of the town, and one of her favorite activities with Steve is walking around town with their dog Harpo, an adorable Wheaton terrier. They also enjoy going out to dinner at the many wonderful restaurants in town and love town events like Jazz on the Plazz.
Although Ann is running for state Senate. She will continue to be very involved on the local level and also deeply cares about the whole state. Ann is passionate about making the community the best it can be by working to solve issues such as traffic and housing affordability. She loves hearing ideas from everyone in the community and seeks to talk to people with all different perspectives. Ann believes that the community can come together to solve problems, help others, and be a truly incredible place to live.
This article was published in the December 2019 edition of Los Gatos Living. You can read the full magazine here.