2004 Graduate Yvette Simpson’s Success Story Continues with City Council Election
Yvette Simpson ’04 flirted with the idea of running for Cincinnati City Council for a few years, but it was not until July 2010 that she decided to enter a race.
From October 2010 to the early days of November 2011, the proud Cincinnatian and West End resident poured countless hours into her 2011 campaign. But even after all the time and energy put forth, the end result was surprising to her.
“I never thought I’d win the first time out,” Simpson said.
On Nov. 8, Simpson was elected to City Council, one of four newcomers to the nine-member council. Since that day and since being sworn in on Dec. 1, “it’s been a whirlwind,” the 33-year-old said.
Simpson got quickly acclimated to her new role, first working with the rest of the council to pass the budget. Since those first two weeks, Simpson has been attending meetings, getting out in the community and familiarizing herself with “what’s happening and where the city is going to go” in the coming years.
More than three months in, Simpson says her goals have not changed. Now she is working hard with her fellow councilmembers to achieve them. “One of the overarching things that I was looking at was really kind of bringing a sense of efficiency, order (and) transparency to the way the government happens,” Simpson said. “I think that we have been successful in that already.”
Outside of supporting the initiatives of the other eight councilmembers, Simpson said her office is concerned with three areas in particular: small business development, neighborhood development and a focus on youth as the future of Cincinnati.
“I think for the first time in a long time you are seeing a council that’s really looking at how do we progress Cincinnati, how do we make Cincinnati a world-class city,” said Simpson, reflecting not only on her aspirations but also those of the other councilmembers. “We’re really in a position to be able to become competitive with cities that we would not typically compare ourselves to.”
Pursuing a Legal Career
When Simpson was eight years old, she decided she wanted to attend law school. While few children at that age have this aspiration, this is especially noteworthy considering no one in her family attended college, let alone pursued a graduate degree. “I looked at the law as an opportunity to make change. I don’t know why I saw that at eight, but I really did,” said Simpson, who grew up in Lincoln Heights. “There are, of course, always challenges when you’re the first at anything, particularly when you have very little resources. I was very fortunate to have lots of support.”
After graduating from Princeton High School, she attended Miami University, majoring in political science and mass communication, while minoring in business legal studies. Simpson was highly involved at Miami, which was a “wonderful” experience and helped her grow as an individual, she said.
“I feel like undergrad was an opportunity to become myself,” Simpson said. “I finally became a leader in law school. I started to realize I could be someone that could lead things and get things done.”
Simpson enrolled at the College of Law in the fall of 2001, and was very active on and off campus for all three years, which included working multiple part-time jobs, just as she had done while attending Miami.
At UC Law, Simpson co-chaired the Student Legal Education Committee (SLEC), was an executive member of the Moot Court board (and was inducted to the Order of the Barristers), served on the honor council, was a senior articles editor for the Human Rights Quarterly, and worked as an associate with both Baker & Hostetler LLP and Frost Brown Todd LLC.
“I got a taste of leadership and involvement, and I loved it,” said Simpson, who received the University of Cincinnati’s “Spirit of the Community” award while attending the College of Law.
Following law school, Simpson worked at Frost Brown Todd and then with Keating Muething & Klekamp PPL. Working in private practice helped Simpson build a strong foundation, but she soon found that she “gravitated more towards the community and the opportunity to help people,” she said.
In her third year in practice, Simpson had the opportunity to travel to Africa with a team of lawyers, doctors, teachers and engineers, where she conducted a non-profit education group.
After enjoying this experience, Simpson began to ask herself, ‘Could I make a living out of making change?’ Can I serve for a living, as opposed to it being the thing that I do after work?’
Simpson went on to develop Miami University’s first pre-law program after being approached by the university. Simpson, who called this a “phenomenal growth opportunity,” has led the Miami pre-law center for five years and is sad to be leaving the program at the end of the month.
Passion for the Past
In 2005, Simpson was named to the Business Courier’s “Forty under 40” list and she was also named a YWCA Rising Star. There are too many accomplishments to list them all, but there is one thing Simpson is particularly proud of: making it to and graduating from law school after setting that goal at age eight.
“That’s probably the most significant because it was the thing I always wanted to do. To have accomplished that is just phenomenal,” Simpson said. “When I look back at how far I’ve come and how many obstacles there were between me and that, and it feels like everything after my law degree really is ‘cake.’”
Not only is Simpson proud of her law degree, but she is specifically fond of her time at the College of Law. “I love my law school,” Simpson said. “I get as involved as I can. Of course, I have a great relationship with the law school through my work at Miami. I’m just really proud of my school.”
On Oct. 31, just more than a week before Election Day, Simpson was one of several City Council candidates who attended a lunchtime forum at the College of Law. This event, co-sponsored by the Law Republicans and Law Democrats, was a great opportunity for each of the candidates, especially Simpson.
“I was the only one, I think, there who actually attended UC law school, which was quite an honor for me to be able to get back to my alma mater,” Simpson said. “I was really inspired by the questions and comments of the folks that we met with.”
Outside of her work, Simpson has become “quite enamored” with golf and enjoys working out, listening to live music, singing and dancing. Despite being a people-person, she also likes the occasional peace and quiet to read biographies and autobiographies about great leaders.
By Jordan Cohen, ’13