Bobbie Sterne: Cincinnati's first full-term female mayor dies at 97

Posted at 1:09 PM, Nov 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-23 15:12:13-05

CINCINNATI -- The first woman to serve a full term as mayor in Cincinnati has died. 

Bobbie Sterne died Wednesday night in California, according to her daughter Lynn Sterne-Bush. Sterne was 97. Her 98th birthday would have been Monday. 

She became mayor in December 1976 (following the first black mayor, Ted Berry) and served two one-year terms – 1976-77 and '78-79.  At the time, a coalition of Charterites and Democrats controlled City Hall and traded the mayor's seat back and forth.

FROM THE VAULT: Bobbie Sterne, first full-term female mayor, was battle tested during WWII

The mayor's position was largely ceremonial at the time, but Sterne used it to advocate for causes others ignored. In 1979, during a police strike, she pushed for a minority recruitment program that brought more black police officers onto the force. She also signed a proclamation declaring "Lesbian-Gay Pride Day." She was heavily criticized for that, but later won endorsements from Stonewall Cincinnati.

As a council member, she fought for funding for public health services and defended Cincinnati's city manager form of government. That meant resisting when council tried to interfere where she thought it shouldn't. 

In a statement, Mayor John Cranley called Sterne a "Great Cincinnatian" and said he is inspired by her "get-it-done spirit."  

“A true champion of Cincinnati’s spirit has been lost. As a tremendous public health advocate, voice for the voiceless, and overall Great Cincinnatian, we are blessed to inherit her legacy," Cranley said in a statement. "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. I was lucky enough to get to know her early in my career and benefited from her support and sage advice. Rest peacefully Mayor Sterne, my prayers are with her family and friends.”

Sterne's family is planning a memorial in her honor, which will take place sometime in December or January in Cincinnati.

WCPO Web Editor Greg Noble contributed to this report.