Born one of eight children of a combined family and raised in the city of Hamilton located in Butler County, Ohio, Paula often cites education as a pathway to success. This comes from the encouragement of her father, a Hamilton city department worker, who stressed the importance of education during her adolescent years.
With that mindset, Paula attended Spelman College, a historically black higher education institution for women in Atlanta, Georgia where in 1973 she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism. She then continued her educational studies at Colorado State University where she graduated with a Master’s degree in communications development in 1975.
Following graduation, Paula and her family returned to Wilberforce, Ohio where she taught readiness skills to underprepared students in the Upward Bound Program at Central State University. It was through this experience that Paula saw the challenges that young people faced with the legal system. As a result, Paula returned to law school with a focus on juvenile justice issues.
After graduating with her Juris Doctorate from the University of Iowa, Paula moved with her family to Toledo in 1982. As a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow, she began her career at Toledo Legal Aid Society representing senior citizens and working with several community groups.
Paula’s purpose has centered on improving the quality of her community through her hard work in the public and private sector. During her 35-year professional career, she has worked as assistant Lucas County prosecutor, assistant public defender and assistant state attorney general. From 1998-2002, she served as the legislative director of the Toledo City Council. Following that, she served as the director and deputy director of the Lucas County Board of Elections and chief legal counsel to the Ohio Office of Budget and Management under Governor Ted Strickland.
From negotiating labor contracts for Ohio Shared Services Center and teaching domestic relations law to conducting voter education activities for Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Paula has advocated for a diverse range of issues in a holistic and sensible way.
Of particular note are her numerous programs and efforts geared toward youth well-being and educational issues. As a Court Appointed Child Advocate-Guardian ad Litem, she is trained in mediation and advocates for neglected and underrepresented youth. As a result of her efforts, she has been honored by the Urban Minority Alcohol and Drug Outreach Program.
On January 22, 2011 Paula was appointed to City Council to replace Michael Ashford. She won a special election for the District 4 spot on May 3, 2011. She then was the top vote getter in the September 13th municipal primary election and went on to win the November 8, 2011 General Election for a four-year term to the District 4 seat which began on January 3, 2012. She became President of Council on February 26, 2013 during a special council meeting. On February 17, 2015 Paula was sworn in as Mayor for the City of Toledo, following the passing of D. Michael Collins on February 6, 2015.