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Vernon Sykes Biography

Senator Vernon Sykes serves the people of Senate District 28

Senator Sykes is currently serving his second term in the Ohio Senate, where he represents the 28th Senate district, encompassing portions of Summit and Geauga counties, and all of Portage County. In addition to his work as a Senator, Sykes is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science and former Director of the Columbus Program in State Issues at Kent State University. He serves as the Parliamentarian of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. Sykes has held previous positions in the Akron City Council and the Ohio House of Representatives.

As a longtime advocate for redistricting reform, Sykes was the joint sponsor of the two constitutional amendments that reformed the redistricting process for Ohio’s state legislative and congressional maps. The amendments, which Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved in 2015 and 2018 respectively, attempted to end gerrymandering and ensure Ohioans are better represented in the General Assembly and Congress. He serves as co-chair of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which is tasked with drawing state legislative maps and is also involved in congressional redistricting. Sykes argued that both the state legislative and congressional maps approved by the majority in 2021 failed to comply with the historic reforms adopted by voters. In January 2022, the Supreme Court of Ohio agreed, in an unprecedented ruling, that both sets of maps were unconstitutional and asked the Ohio Redistricting Commission and the legislature to go back to the drawing board.

During his time in the legislature, Senator Sykes has also passionately and successfully fought for meaningful legislation that expands access to early childhood education, makes higher education more affordable, combats child abuse, and prevents housing discrimination against people with disabilities.

Senator Sykes’ unwavering commitment to his constituents opened many doors for him during his time spent in the Ohio House of Representatives. Sen. Sykes has served as Assistant Majority Floor Leader, Chair of the House Finance & Appropriations Committee, Chair of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, Co-Chair of the Ohio Constitution Modernization Committee, and Co-Chair of the Budget Planning & Management Commission.

That same commitment and innovation has earned Senator Sykes several distinguished awards, including the Public Elected Official of the Year Award from the National Association of Social Workers in 2012, the Champion for Working Families & Civil Rights Award from the Ohio AFL-CIO in 2015, the Alumni Honor Award from the University of Akron in 2015, the Legislative Champion of the Year Award from the Ohio Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs in 2018, the Outstanding Contributions to Health Education Award from the Ohio Society of Public Health Education in 2018, the Legislator of the Year Award from the Ohio Association of Elections Officials in 2018, the Small Business Advocate of the Year Award from the Greater Cleveland Partnership and its Council of Smaller Enterprises in 2018, the Progressive Hero Award from the Ohio Democratic Party in 2020, the Kindland Initiative Award from the Values-in-Action Foundation in 2022, and the Legislator of the Year Award from the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers in 2023.

Sykes completed his undergraduate studies at Ohio University, where received his B.B.A. in Management and Organizational Behavior. From there, Sykes attended Wright State University and Harvard University, where he earned a Master of Social and Applied Economics and a Master of Public Administration, respectively. All of which led to the achievement of Dr. Sykes earning a Ph.D. in Public Administration from the University of Akron in 2001. In December 2020, he obtained Professor Emeritus standing at Kent State University.

Sykes is married to Barbara Sykes, a member of the Akron Public School Board of Education. They have two beautiful daughters, Stancy and Emilia, and two energetically loving grandchildren, Hugh and Hope.