When Amy Murray was 16, she spent a year as an exchange student in Kyoto, Japan -- an experience that set in motion her entire private- and public-sector career.
She became fluent in Japanese, and later spent several years negotiating Asian business deals for Procter & Gamble before setting up her own consulting firm for companies that want to do business in Japan. She’d never considered politics until reading in the newspaper one morning about Cincinnati’s year-after-year budget deficits. “As a businessperson, I thought, ‘How can this happen?’” she says. “I felt like I could add something.” In 2009, she ran for city council and lost. Murray is a Republican in heavily blue Cincinnati. She was later appointed to a vacant spot in 2011 and won outright in 2013.
On the council, she chairs the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee, which puts her in charge of the city’s controversial streetcar project. She’s regarded as a good mediator and a fair negotiator, which she credits to her time in Japan. “Having lived there in the ’80s, gender roles were very different,” she says. “Everything revolves around group decision-making and allowing people to save face. Now, on council, it’s about finding common ground. It’s about what’s best for the city.”