Sharmili Reddy was working at an architecture firm in India right out of college when she learned about the University of Cincinnati through colleagues. Impressed by its strong international student population and specifically its Indian Student Association, the Mangalore native applied to the master’s program in community planning at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.
She immigrated to Cincinnati in 2000 at age 22, earning her master’s degree two years later. After working briefly in Pennsylvania and Louisville, Reddy and her husband decided to settle in Ft. Mitchell, a place they’ve called home since 2004 and where their son was born. “Cincinnati is where I got to know the culture, the people, and the country in general, so it’s always felt like home,” she says. “There have been so many people who’ve just wrapped their arms around us and adopted us as part of this community. I don’t see us being anywhere but here.”
Reddy has dedicated her career to ensuring Northern Kentucky is a welcoming, safe, and supportive haven for others. In her current role as executive director of Kenton County planning and development services, she oversees planning- and zoning-related activities. She also serves as a board member of the Gateway Foundation, which raises funds to support students at the Gateway Community & Technical College, and volunteers with the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Committee and Horizon Community Funds, which strive to increase the quality of life for all Northern Kentucky residents through fund-raising and uniting people and resources.
Although she says she’s “never felt like an outsider here,” Reddy says she recognizes that there’s always room for improvement. “There’s a lot of energy right now on both sides of the river to really focus on the diversity, equity, and inclusion aspects of our community, and it’s very encouraging that we’re willing to have these community conversations,” she says. “I feel like I live in an inclusive community, but I want everybody who moves here to feel the same.”