Making Black History

Cathy Bernardino Bailey 

How she's making a difference:

Executive Director, Greater Cincinnati Water Works

Years in the region:


Originally from:

Weirton, WV



Her story: 

Cathy Bernardino Bailey is the Executive Director of the Greater Cincinnati Water Works Department (GCWW). Cathy is the first woman and first African American to lead Cincinnati’s major, independent, municipal water utility in its 200-year history. Cathy leads a team that ensures safe drinking water for a regional population of more than 1.1 million citizens; supervises a team of 600 full-time employees; and oversees a $110 million operating budget. Cathy is a strong champion and key visionary behind Greater Cincinnati Water Works award-winning Lead Service Line Replacement Program. 
Cathy started her water utility career spending two years at the United States Environmental Protection Agency as a research chemist. Ms. Bailey holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Cincinnati.
She has received several recognitions as 2018 Greater Cincinnati YWCA’s Career Women of Achievement, a Cincinnati Venue Magazine’s Women of Influence and a Woman’s City Club Feist-Tea Woman.
Time away from work keeps Cathy involved in family activities, community endeavors and various Arts events and entertainment.  he serves as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and on the Playhouse in the Park Board.

Her support comes from:

From a few water utility leaders in the industry. They all are outside of Cincinnati and have taken me under their wing and help me navigate a predominantly male industry. They care about me, check in on me, nominate me for roles on committees and boards, make sure my opinions are heard. And these are white male leaders that realize the industry is changing and genuinely care about me. They push me and support me along the way.  I truly appreciate them as mentors and more importantly as friends.

Advice for emerging African American leaders:

Find out what is important to you and what you will not compromise on as a leader.  Know this and never compromise over it. Surround yourself with people that you trust and have confidence in. Talk to them often and let them help you navigate the various characteristics of your job and city. 

Cincinnati as a “future city” is: 

That we are one.  Similar to water, there is drinking water, sewer and stormwater. However, it’s just One Water. I would hope and expect the future city of Cincinnati is One Cincinnati. Not Black Cincinnati or other or white Cincinnati, but that we have come together and appreciate and respect our diversity and live, work and play equally in it. We are One Cincinnati.  


  1. I hope that women, particularly young women and women of color, can look to me and my career and see that you can have a successful career in a male dominated field. You can do what you want to do, regardless of your gender.
  2. I hope that people will know and say that I cared. That I cared about our community.  I worked hard to put some practices in place that helped our customers in the region. Perhaps it is through the lead service line replacement program to reduce the risk of lead or through additional ways to address affordability of utility bills for our region. Whatever it is, I hope that my legacy is that I cared, and my actions showed it.

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