Collaboration, growth, opportunity and progress are the buzzwords that Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson uses to describe what she wants to foster at City Hall during the next two years.
“We are at a place in the city that we can move the ball forward, which is really my passion,” Simpson says. “Make some shifts in how we are perceived in the city and the opportunities we can take advantage of.”
Since taking office in December, Simpson was selected as vice chair of council’s Public Safety and Livable Communities committees. “I really like the balance between the intellectual intensity and the opportunity to engage with people and make an impact,” she adds.
The first person in her family to graduate from college, Simpson got two undergraduate degrees from Miami Univeristy in Oxford, worked for awhile in consumer promotions in Los Angeles, then returned home to attend law school at the University of Cincinnati. She currently is the director of pre-law programs at Miami.
A Lincoln Heights native, Simpson, 33, served on the community advisory council for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. She was inspired to run for public office by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who she says has been a mentor of sorts.
For Simpson, serving on City Council is the perfect complement of her two lives.
“I spent the first part of my career involved with complex legal issues representing various clients on legal matters,” she says.
“And then spent the other time of my life involved with community service and connecting with people and making an impact. At Miami, I was working with students and developing new programs, and ideally this is a marriage of all of that.”
Simpson feels the responsibility of being the only African-American woman currently elected to City Council. This point was driven home for her after her first council meeting, when a 13-year-old girl, accompanied by her mother, stopped Simpson to say that she inspired her.
“I talk about it now and it still chokes me up,” she says. “I told her never, ever give up, stay focused on your goal and on school and come back to see me anytime.”
Since Simpson’s election, several young women have approached her saying how glad they are she is representing them on City Council. “This is an opportunity and a blessing, and again being that role model is very important,” she adds.
When Simpson sat on the council dais for the first time, she said it was a magical moment, but now she has a greater understanding of what it means to fill the office.
“You’re up there and looking out at these people and they’re looking up at you and expecting you to do something. That is something I take very seriously. I take it home with me, which is why we work so hard here,” she says.
Although it’s only been a month since council was sworn into office, the West End resident is not wasting time getting started on her list of priorities that she believes will help grow the city.
The list includes creating an aggressive community engagement plan, focusing on strategic key areas that can help grow the city’s population and tax base; improving public safety; protecting health clinics; tapping an untapped resource of using small business development to help revitalize neighborhood business districts and spark jobs; and bringing more employment opportunities to the city’s youth population.
The latter goal might be accomplished by creating a youth advisory council to help shape policies involving young people.
To help with the goal, Simpson, a few of her colleagues and some community organizations held an antiviolence rally on the steps of City Hall on New Year’s Eve. Simpson explained the rally was a way to recognize that the city experienced less violence in 2011 and hopes this year will continue the trend.
“It was a great opportunity for us. I’ve been working with Mothers of Murdered Victims and I’ve been working with young mothers to see the importance to build a village community to help raise children, keeping them safe and stopping violence for the future,” Simpson says. ©