When redistricting forced four-term Congresswoman Lynn Rivers to square off with fellow Democratic Rep. John D. Dingell in 2002, she saw her tenure representing southeast Michigan end in heartbreaking fashion.
“It’s very difficult when you fight with family,” she said of her primary with Dingell, which she lost by 18 points.
But since leaving D.C., Rivers has reconnected with an old flame, found a new passion and realized that in shedding her old life, she’s found one equally fulfilling — and more relaxing.
Rivers grew up in Au Gres, a small town on Saginaw Bay, before going to Ann Arbor to study at the University of Michigan. Rivers stayed in Ann Arbor and began her political career when her daughter was having trouble reading in a local school.
She’s back now in Ann Arbor, teaching full time at Washtenaw Community College, in addition to a class per semester at the University of Michigan.
She started teaching immediately after leaving Congress, even though she lacked a teaching background. “It took me a little while, I think, to get my footing as a teacher, but I think I’m a pretty good teacher now,” she said.
When she’s not teaching, Rivers drives the 150 miles back to Au Gres to the home she shares with her new husband, or he comes down to her home in Ann Arbor. He might be her new husband, but Ross Maser was also her high-school sweetheart.
The couple dated while Rivers was in ninth through 11th grades but then broke up. During senior year, Rivers dated another boy, whom she ended up marrying. But both Rivers and Maser were divorced after a few decades.
Eight years ago, they started seeing each other again. That long courtship ended just two weeks ago, when they had a quiet, unannounced civil ceremony. They invited friends to their new home under the guise of a housewarming party, but Rivers brought out the wedding cake, and the party became an informal celebration.
Rivers said that maybe she could help a campaign someday, but she doesn’t see herself ever running for anything again. She liked her former lifestyle, but she likes her new one, too.
“There’s a certain appeal to eating dinner at a table, sleeping in your own bed, having pets,” Rivers said.
She’s teaching close to five hours of class four days a week and meets with students in the evenings. “When you work with people who are motivated, when you work with kids that have ambition and vision, it kind of keeps me young,” she said.
Up until a year ago, Rivers had been part of a political radio program hosted on a local National Public Radio affiliate and she only recently stopped blogging for The Detroit News.
She admitted, however, that occasionally when she watches politics on TV, she jumps out of her seat and wishes she could join the argument.
Rivers talks often with her two daughters, now in their 30s, and for a time last year, both were staying with her in Ann Arbor, the clan together for the first time since they were in high school.
Her daughters have since returned to their individual homes in Sacramento and New Orleans, and Rivers is glad to have her personal space back.
“There are no grandchildren yet, though, and I’m somewhat bitter about that,” she joked, noting that a lot of her friends like to show off pictures of their grandchildren.
In her spare time, Rivers likes to scour garage sales and go antiquing. She juggles several books at a time, and as Michigan settles into autumn, she plans on doing some baking.
Now as she thinks back to her loss to Dingell, she’s somewhat thankful.
“It was a tough, tough loss; took me a while to come back from it. But I think I’m really comfortable now and [there] is a life after Congress. There are other things out there that are satisfying and fulfilling.”