Today is June 17, 2009. The following is an interview with Stephanie Stoller as told to Marlene Morris.
Mrs. Morris: Tell me about your life before coming to Blue Ash, such as where you were born, where you lived, where you went to school.
Mrs. Stoller: I was born in Pittsburgh, PA. I lived there for my first six years and then came to Cincinnati, Ohio. I went to Avondale School; that was before there became a North and a South Avondale. I was at Avondale School, at Rockdale and Reading, through the fifth grade. I lived in Youngstown, Ohio for one year, when I was in the sixth grade, and I came back to Cincinnati and started Walnut Hills High School and graduated from there in 1953. After graduation, I was in the UC College of Pharmacy which, during my freshman and sophomore year, was, at that time, not a part of UC. The College of Pharmacy was located on 8th Street between Central and John in downtown Cincinnati. Then, by the beginning of my junior year, The College of Pharmacy became a part of the University and moved out to UC campus. Two year later I graduated with a B.S. in pharmacy, took the State Boards, and started filling prescriptions.
Mrs. Morris: What brought you to Blue Ash?
Mrs. Stoller: Arny and I were married in 1955, lived in an apartment on Vine Street in Avondale for 2 years while I finished College of Pharmacy and then moved out to Roselawn. Our 2 children were born and raised there up to the ages of 8 and 10 and we realized we needed a bigger house. I was going to head out to Wyoming, which was where I really thought I’d like to live. A real estate agent came over, and we talked for a minute. He had an errand to run out in Blue Ash. I, of course, went with him on the errand. This errand was on Kenridge Lake. I saw Kenridge Lake, and it took about ten minutes to realize we would move to Blue Ash instead of Wyoming. There was no question. There was no house either. There was one house on the lake that was for sale but it really was too small. There was an empty lot which we then bought and on which we built a house. That’s what brought us to Blue Ash; it was Kenridge Lake.
Mrs. Morris: What was your first impression of Blue Ash?
Mrs. Stoller: This was back in about 1965, and Blue Ash was a four-gas-stations-on-a-corner type place. There was nothing here. We did check the Sycamore School System and found out that the schools were well thought of. We then began to build a house in this “way-far-out” place.
Mrs. Morris: Have you lived in the same house all these years?
Mrs. Stoller: Yes. We built the house we knew we wanted with a view of Kenridge Lake. We can find no reason to leave.
Mrs. Morris: You became involved with government and ran for office. What prompted that? Have you had any previous experience with elected office?
Mrs. Stoller: Oh, no. The only thing I had to do with politics before that was one experience in high school. There was a fellow that I liked, and his father was running for Cincinnati City Council. I passed out flyers for his father.
Mrs. Morris: What inspired you?
Mrs. Stoller: So what brought me actually to politics? We were living here in Blue Ash and therefore also moved a company we owned out here to Blue Ash. It’s nice living close to where you work. We had an employee whose husband was a policeman with the Blue Ash Police Department, and there was some controversy. I attended some meetings and found it all very interesting. At that time I was a registered Republican and I became involved with the party and attended some Republican Club functions. The head of the Republican Party at that time was Bob McConaughy who was also the City Solicitor for Blue Ash. I started attending the Blue Ash City Council meetings and found that I really enjoyed the experience. There was an opening in the at-large position in the City of Blue Ash in 1973, and Bob asked me if I would be interested in getting involved and if I would be interested in being appointed to the vacant seat. If I did want to be appointed, I would then have to run for a ward position that November, about four months later. And, I said, “Sounds great.” And so I was appointed. I was in an at-large position for three or four months and then that November I had to run for the Ward 2 position which I did, and I beat the incumbent. I’ve been on Council ever since. Over the years since my first election to Blue Ash City Council, I have felt that the ideology of the Republican Party has taken a radical change and I could no longer be a part of it. I feel decisions are constantly being made for partisan political reasons to enhance a politician’s chances of being reelected, and not in the best interests of the citizens. I am now an Independent.
Mrs. Morris: How did you campaign? Did you shake a lot of hands, go door to door?
Mrs. Stoller: Oh, yes.
Mrs. Morris: All the traditional?
Mrs. Stoller: All the traditional, definitely. What I mostly did was door-to-door, and since I was on City Council in the at-large position, I knew what was going on with City Council. I went door-to-door in Ward 2, introduced myself to everybody, and asked them what I could do to help them. I could answer questions and take care of problems since I was already on Council. The incumbent was really not doing much for his constituents at that time. He was one of those people who voted “no” on everything. I served with him for about three or four months. He voted no on every issue which was, in many cases, against the best interest of his constituents. It seemed wrong. He didn’t say why he voted no, he just voted no which was not helping his people at all. I won the race.
Mrs. Morris: Do you have much contact with constituents? Do you receive quite a few calls?
Mrs. Stoller: Oh, yes. I get calls all the time from constituents. I send out a newsletter, at my own expense, and I have since almost the beginning. I used to send out three or four newsletters a year, but now, since Blue Ash is also sending out newsletters, I’ve cut it down to one a year. I figure there’s no sense giving the same information over and over. I also put my phone number and e-mail address in the newsletter I send out and tell residents to contact me anytime, either daytime or evening, at home or at the office. And they do. I receive a lot of calls for different things that people are unhappy with. Sometimes it’s street maintenance; sometimes it’s traffic signals; sometimes it’s just maintenance of peoples’ yards. It’s people unhappy with how things are going. So I, along with administration, take care of those issues. It’s really fun. I like that part. It’s being in touch with the people, and I can usually work out the problems.
Mrs. Morris: You’ve been on Council while Blue Ash has gone through some major changes, with industrialization and the decision on what kind of industry or businesses you want in here.
Mrs. Stoller: Well, on the industrialization, let’s just say that in about 1955 there was a choice of building the Greater Cincinnati Airport out here in Blue Ash or expanding CVG over in Kentucky, and thank goodness CVG worked out in Kentucky. The property In Blue Ash that was owned by Cincinnati was the Reed Hartman Highway area, and since Cincinnati wasn’t going to need it any longer with the airport expanding in Kentucky, it was up for sale. It was developed for business. Very large, nice businesses and offices made a good business area. The City Manager at the time, Vic Suhm, who had come to Blue Ash right before I got on Council, had very progressive ideas. That’s when the golf course property development started. Marvin Thompson, who was just coming out of college in business administration, took a job with the city as Vic’s assistant and then carried on the same kind of policies when Vic retired and he (Marvin) became city manager. Both Vic and Marvin were “idea” people and were willing to make changes for the good of the city and its citizens. Council was progressive and was very willing to go along with a lot of their ideas. And that’s why Blue Ash became what it is today.
Mrs. Morris: What accomplishments give you the most satisfaction, whether they’re for Blue Ash or personal?
Mrs. Stoller: Just working with the people and making decisions to develop the downtown area and the golf course property. Blue Ash is divided into three different types of usages: business, residential, and green space. We developed a master plan and stayed with it. What came out of that makes Blue Ash a very livable area. Residents have the recreation center with very low membership fees, the parks, access to three expressways and are still not far from downtown Cincinnati, our hub. Blue Ash has a lot to offer. Other areas of the county are also being developed. You’ve heard of West Chester. You’ve heard of Lakota. You’ve heard of places out farther where houses are a little less expensive. People get more land out there, but then they have to fight traffic. We have the ideal location with three expressways right in the City of Blue Ash. And we have to remember that we have to keep updating our city. That’s why City Council voted for, and hoped it would work, the downtown redevelopment that we were talking about last year. I’m sorry we had to drop it, but the price came in a lot higher than what we had hoped it would be. But the idea was that we were trying to make it a more urban area, to make it more walkable, to make it so people don’t have to get into their cars all the time. We wanted businesses downtown that people would like to shop in. We have shopping center strip malls down there now, and we have to get into our cars to move from shopping center to shopping center. We were going to try to make it into a more urban, walkable area with a big square where we could have outdoor dining with restaurants around the square. We envisioned businesses on the first floor, offices on the second floor, residences on the third floor, bringing people to the businesses and the businesses to the people.
Mrs. Morris: This may be your vision for Blue Ash.
Mrs. Stoller: Yes.
Mrs. Morris: Could you comment on what it’s been like to be the only woman on Council?
Mrs. Stoller: It feels like being the only woman on Council, and I wish there were more women because women have a different view on a lot of things. When I was first running for office in Ward 2, there was another woman running for a different ward, and she did not get elected. I am the only woman that has ever been on Blue Ash City Council. All of the other communities in the area have had numerous women serving on their councils, and I keep telling myself that I’m not going to leave Blue Ash Council until we can get another woman to serve. We need more women on council because women see things differently.
Mrs. Morris: You have a business so you are bringing that experience to City Council. How does this affect your perspective?
Mrs. Stoller: I do see differences. We have a small business here and the others have all worked, when they have worked, usually for large corporations such as Procter & Gamble which gives a totally different perspective. I see things a little differently from a small business point of view.
Mrs. Morris: What other activities have you been involved in besides government?
Mrs. Stoller: I’m the president of Garden Club now. I helped to start the Blue Ash Montgomery Symphony. I was the president of that for awhile and am still on the board. I am a member of Cincinnatus and am working with different groups such as the Inclusion Panel and also the Government Panel, trying to make Greater Cincinnati a place that people will come to and love and remain because, really, Blue Ash is just one entity. We are an outskirt of Cincinnati, and without Cincinnati, which is our hub, we are really nothing. We have to keep that going, too. I’ve been working hard on that. I’m on the Women’s Political Caucus, and there are a lot of others.
Mrs. Morris: Do you have anything you would like to add?
Mrs. Stoller: I love being here. It’s a fabulous city. I think we are moving in the right direction, and we just have to stay in the right direction and keep ourselves up-to-date. We want people to come here not just for the school system, for Sycamore, but because they really want to live in Blue Ash.
Mrs. Morris: Thank you.
Mrs. Stoller: You’re welcome.