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Former Mayor Bobbie Sterne Dies

Cincinnati's first full-time female mayor dies at 97.
Cincinnati's first full-time female mayor dies at 97.

Former Cincinnati council member and mayor Bobbie Sterne blazed a trail in politics for generations of  women in politics for generations to come. She died last Wednesday at the age of 97. 

She was a mentor and a role model to women like former mayor Roxanne Qualls and Hamilton County commissioner Denise Driehaus, along with hundreds of other women who admired her and emulated her passion for public service. 

Last week, Cincinnati mayor John Cranley called Sterne "a true Champion of Cincinnati's spirit ."

Sterne, the first full-term Cincinnati female mayor from 1975-1976 and 1978-1979. She served at City Hall for 25 years. And, when in the months before she was to be term-limited out in 1997, she quietly resigned and literally left City Hall after a council meeting, with no fuss or fawning over her for her service. She just got in the silver Corvette that she parked outside City Hall each day and simply drove away.

The Charter Committee, Cincinnati's independent political party that Sterne believed in intensely, appointed Jim Tarbell to take her place. 

During World War II, Sterne was an Army nurse who treated wounded soldiers on the beach at Normandy. Most of her colleagues knew that after an experience like that, there was little that could happen at Cincinnati City Hall that would rattle her.

"She set a standard for public service in both her council and mayoral terms, and I am inspired by her get-it-done spirit to continue doing all I can to make Cincinnati the best it can be for us all," Cranley said in a written statement. 

Sterne may have been the last of the true Charterites - she believed passionately in the council-manager form of government the Charter Committee created in the 1920s; and insisted that council members set policy and not interfere with the day-to-day operations of city departments. That, she said, was the work of the city manager and the department heads. 

Sterne's family is planning a memorial service.

Her daughters, Lynn and Cindy Sterne, with whom she lived in California in recent years, issued the following statement:

Our family and all of Greater Cincinnati have lost a treasure. Our mom, Bobbie Sterne, cared immensely about Cincinnati – its citizens, its children, its institutions and its longstanding tradition as a special place where people give back to the community. That’s what our Mom did throughout her entire life. She wanted to make a difference, from her days as a World War II nurse on the shores of Normandy just days after the D-Day invasion to her decades-long commitment to the city she loved with all of her heart. Her commitment to public service was matched only by her generosity and unflinching conviction that a great city like Cincinnati deserved a great political system, defined by elected and appointed leaders who always put the residents and taxpayers of Cincinnati first. Our mom, a former nurse and wife of a doctor and former chief of medical staff at the Veterans Administration hospital in Cincinnati, cared immensely for the well-being and health of Cincinnati’s youngest and its most vulnerable. Throughout her entire political career – from serving as a council woman and mayor -- our mom insisted that Cincinnati City Hall’s greatest priority was serving its residents. Our mom lived a grand life. She touched thousands and thousands of lives and always asked one question: How best can I serve? She was 97 when she passed away Wednesday evening in Santa Cruz, California. She would have turned 98 on Nov. 27. Obviously, we are heartbroken that she’s no longer with us. But her family, like all of Cincinnati, will be comforted by our many memories of her: A loving mother, a dedicated public servant and Cincinnati’s No. 1 fan.

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With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.
Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.