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City manager Paula Boggs Muething faced many obstacles on her way to the top, credits strong family

Paula Boggs Muething Cincinnati City Manger
Cincinnati city manager Paula Boggs Muething
Posted at 6:00 AM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 17:54:08-04

Throughout 2021, WCPO’s Tanya O’Rourke will introduce you to nine influential women breaking glass ceilings or asserting their influence to make the Tri-State a better place to live.

CINCINNATI -- When it comes to influential women in the city of Cincinnati, Paula Boggs Muething is right at the top. She’s the current city manager and helps runs the city behind the scenes.

She’s only the second woman in history to hold the position and the first Asian-American. On the ladder to the top she faced multiple obstacles, including a recurring fight with breast cancer, but she said such issues made her all the more determined.

“I’ve always been motivated by issues of equality and justice,” Boggs Muething said.

She said she takes pride in not being able to be defined as one thing.

“I consider myself to be a public servant,” Boggs Muething said. “You know, I think of myself as a mom and a wife and an attorney and a daughter.”

She grew up in Harlan, Kentucky, and came to Cincinnati to study law.

“My mom came from Japan. My dad grew up in Harlan County,” she said. “You know, that’s not an easy road, and I feel so lucky to be able to be here and have these kids enjoying kind of this wonderful city every day.”

Despite her day job of running the city, she doesn’t consider herself a trailblazer. She said she didn’t rise by herself: She was lifted by others, which is a tradition she plans to pass on.

“I worked with council members Keating, Kearney and Sunderman to bring together a number of the female leaders in the city,” Boggs Muething said. “And part of that is because it is an incredible moment for us to stop and recognize how many women are in positions of leadership here. There are so many more than when I started at the city, and so many more when a lot of these women started at the city.”

Others said they see her as a person who helps make the world a better place.

“I trust her implicitly to do what’s right for the right reasons,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said. “Paula will not push a personal or selfish agenda. She pushes the city’s agenda and holds people accountable for better work.”

She said the cancer diagnosis changed her – she’s become even more motivated to make a difference.

“It causes me to have very little patience,” Boggs Muething said. “You know, I was already working with a high sense of urgency and it has, it has really accelerated that because it is, I think, a change to your perspective to be presented with kind of an end date. And, you know, we've got a lot to do. We've got a lot to do. So, it's like we just need to get to it.”

She said she’s blessed to have a strong family and great cancer care – her treatment is ongoing. She said the city she’s running is financially on solid ground and ready for summer to welcome people back to being together.