Stars are remembered as a “giant” in Cincinnati politics

Hundreds of her friends remembered the late Bobbie Sterne’s legacy as councilor and mayor of Cincinnati at Memorial Hall Wednesday.

Sterne died on November 22nd at the age of 97. She had lived in Santa Clara, California for the past several years to be around her daughters, Lynn and Cindy Sterne.

She will be remembered for many things, not least of all for being a pioneer in the world of Cincinnati politics at a time when women who ran for office and won it were indeed rare.

Her daughter, Lynn, told the crowd that, as a girl and later as a nurse during World War II, her mother “always felt able to do anything a boy or a man could do”.

Vice Mayor David Mann, who served on Sterne’s city council in the 1970s and 1980s, said Sterne had her place in city history during her 25-year tenure and two years as the first woman to serve a full term as mayor, etched.

“When I was appointed to the council in 1974, there were two giants I got to work with – Charlie Taft and Ted Berry,” said Mann. “When I went to Congress in 1992, I realized there was another giant to work with.”

That giant, said Mann, was a star.

She left an indelible mark on the city as a councilor and mayor, Mann said, especially when it came to her passion for public health issues.

She firmly believes that the city’s public health clinics are fully funded. And she was also responsible for the curbs on the city streets that made Cincinnati’s wheelchair-bound citizens’ lives easier.

There were many in Memorial Hall on Wednesday who had worked on Sternes campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s.

Maureen Babbitt, a former star adviser, told the crowd that she first met Sterne when she volunteered for one of her early campaigns in the 1970s.

Sterne, she said, “inspired a generation of young women” to get involved in politics.

She also has the courage to believe, said Babbitt. As mayor of Cincinnati in the 1970s, Sterne made a statement on Gay Rights Day – something that was unthinkable for a Cincinnati politician before Sterne came along.

And she said she “stood up for women’s reproductive rights at a time when it was not a popular stance,” a statement that drew applause and approval from many in the crowd.

She also devoted herself to the Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s independent political party that fought for and established the form of government of the council manager in the 1920s. Sterne endorsed the charter’s belief that it was the council’s job to set policy and leave the day-to-day running of the city to the city administrator and department heads.

Lynn Sterne told the crowd that she and her sister grew up in a house where all people were accepted, regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background.

Sterne met her husband, Dr. Eugene Sterne met and married him during World War II in France. She was from Portage County, northeast Ohio, but they settled in her husband’s hometown, Cincinnati. They lived in North Avondale, where they raised their daughters.

Her husband died in 1977, six years after his wife was first elected to the council.

Sterne was on the council from 1971 to 1998. It lost its seat in 1985 but regained it in 1987.

Mann said he still believes Cincinnati voters made a mistake in the early 1990s when they voted on term limits for councilors.

“I’ve said many times I didn’t understand how a change in town law that restricted the service of someone like Bobbie Sterne could potentially be seen as a good thing,” Mann said.

Sterne, Mann said, “would often say that the purpose of politics was to improve people’s lives and make our city fairer.”

That is exactly what she did in her 25 years on the Council.

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