This article is an addition to The Courier's list of the highest-paid officials in government for 2023.
Emily Smart Woerner was deciding between two possible career paths as she entered her college years. She could be a teacher or an attorney.
There are many similarities between the two, even though the former won -- Woerner had been named the top attorney for the city of Cincinnati just eight months earlier.
She said, "I enjoy helping and working with people and have always enjoyed writing and arguing." My current role involves a lot of education. I like the aspect of educating our elected officials and our departments.
Woerner began working full-time for the city in 2012 after interning there during her summers of law school. Since then, she has worked in various roles including municipal prosecutor and as a civil litigator. She was appointed city solicitor in July 2022 on an interim basis after Andrew Garth left to take a position at the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. In September, her hiring became official.
Woerner, as city solicitor, has the final word on any legal advice that is given to departments. She also reviews all legislation and acts as the final reviewer. She is the leader of a full-time team of 85 people, including attorneys and support staff.
She said that while it is not the biggest department in the city, the bird's eye view of the entire system was the best. We get to see the way all of the departments work. The city manager challenged the directors to eliminate silos within our organization. We are a very large organization. The law department could help with that, and can identify connections.
Describe the culture at your workplace. It is a very supportive and collaborative environment. People in the office are committed to public service. We are all lawyers and competitive by nature. But we don't compete with each other. We are a great team.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? My mother always told me to pick your battles. She was speaking in the context of marriage, but I found it to be true throughout my career. You have to be strategically minded when you are litigating a lawsuit. If you try to fight everything, then you will not achieve anything.
What is your proudest achievement? Personal and professional, I am proud of getting through the pandemic. It's true that government can be criticized for its slowness, but people reacted quickly during the pandemic and kept the city running. I am proud of my small role in this, and also wanted to make sure that my children felt confident about the future.
What is the best book that you have ever read? Recently, I've read a lot more biographies. It's comforting to know that some of the issues we face today are not necessarily new. The two that stand out are 'Grant', Ron Chernow's biography of Ulysses S. Grant, and The Bully Pulpit' by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This one is interesting, because not only does it talk about Theodore Roosevelt but also about the Tafts and their roots in Cincinnati.
What advice would you offer a 25 year old about a career? Do not worry too much. I am a planner and it's in my nature to believe that if you do not have a plan you will not be successful. Instead, focus on being present. You can never predict what will happen.
What would you be doing on a Saturday? I'd be at a park playing with my children. French Park and Summit Park are our favorites. Mount Airy Forest has a lot of fun but Washington Park is my favorite because it feels so good.
What is your hidden talent? This winter, I began crocheting. For my birthday, my kids gave me a kit with a book. I like to use my hands and this keeps me away from my phone.
Complete this sentence: "Everything is better with...hot Sauce."
Emily Smart Woerner
Company: City of Cincinnati
Career path: Graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from Ohio State University and obtained her Juris Doctor at the University of Illinois College of Law. Since September 2022, I have been the city solicitor. Previous roles included chief of litigation and assistant city solicitor.