West Side Hamilton County Probate Court Magistrate Elizabeth "Betsy" Sundermann was sworn in as a Cincinnati City Councilmember today (March 4), replacing fellow Republican Amy Murray, who is leaving for a job in the Trump administration.
"Cincinnatians place their trust in us to do the best for them, and that's what we have to do," Sundermann said. "Amy Murray once said there is no Democratic or Republican way to fill a pot hole. And that's what I'm saying here."
Sundermann was a GOP favorite due to her experience — she served 13 years as an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor — and because she hails from the city's West Side.
“For too many years, the city’s west side has not had a voice on City Council," Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou tweeted last week. "With @ElectAmyMurray recommending Betsy Sunderman (sic), Westsiders will have a person fighting for them once she’s appointed. This is great news for neighborhoods.”
Her appointment comes after some wrangling. A committee of the Hamilton County GOP weeded through 16 applications and came to five finalists before overwhelmingly recommending Sundermann.
Cincinnati's charter requires council members select another member or members to appoint their replacements should they vacate their seats early. Murray chose Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, an independent, and council member Jeff Pastor, a Republican, who at one point favored another candidate — attorney Steve Goodin. Murray clearly expressed her preference for Sundermann, however, and eventually got her way.
The selection committee recommending Sundermann was made up of Murray, her husband Wally, GOP Finance Chair Nancy Aichholz, GOP Vice Chair Kristie Davis, Charter Committee representative Bob Dehner, lobbyist Chip Gerhardt, former Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartman, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber CEO Jill Meyer, Councilmember Pastor, former Murray chief of staff Alana Tucker, GOP Finance Director Maggie Wuellner, Josh Burton, Nan Cahall and Triantafilou.
Last weekend, Goodin protested that the committee was "stacked" with Murray's supporters and that Sundermann's selection was preordained. He called the selection process "a sham." Eleven members of the committee voted for Sundermann, two voted for Goodin and one voted for another candidate, Liz Keating.
Both Pastor and Smitherman, previously rumored to be Goodin supporters, have signed on to Sundermann's appointment, council documents show.
Pastor today congratulated Sundermann on her appointment during council's Economic Growth and Zoning Committee, which Murray chairs.
Murray was herself appointed to council to fill a seat vacated by Chris Monzel in 2011 when he won election to the Hamilton County Commission. She subsequently lost a bid for election that year, but won a seat in 2013 and again in 2017. She's ineligible to run again next year due to term limits.
Murray is leaving to serve as the director of the Department of Defense's Small Business Programs.
"It's so sad leaving the city, even though we always have chaos and drama… nothing is without that," Murray said March 3 in committee, thanking Pastor and Smitherman. "But, we have been on every committee together through thick and thin and I just so appreciate all the work that you have done with us and moving the city forward, and economic growth and the stuff we've done with them on Law and Public Safety."
Sundermann's term will end Dec. 31, 2021.
Cincinnati City Council will get another new member soon after the resignation of council member Tamaya Dennard yesterday. Dennard, who faces federal bribery and extortion charges, selected council member P.G. Sittenfeld to appoint her replacement. Sittenfeld said this week that he will announce the procedure to replace Dennard soon.