*AARP Regional Vice President Rawle Andrews Jr., today announced that Barbara A. Sykes–former distinguished legislator, community leader and devoted advocate for the underserved in Ohio for more than three decades–has been appointed State Director for AARP in Ohio, effective August 29.
Until her arrival, AARP Advocacy Manager, Dave McNally of New York will be serving as interim State Director and Chair of the AARP statewide transition team.
As Ohio State Director, Sykes will lead and manage the advocacy, communications and community outreach work of AARP and its 1.5 million members in Ohio.
“Our next state director must be able to thrive in a highly dynamic environment while advancing the AARP brand up, down and across the Buckeye State and inside the Beltway from time to time.
Barbara is a thought leader with a people-first, can-do attitude, who has the proven ability to help accelerate the progress of what is working well and to disrupt what needs changing.
I look forward to working with Barbara and the Ohio team to make sure AARP is as good and vibrant as its promise for older Ohioans and their families,” said Andrews.
Mike Barnhart, President of AARP Ohio, commented: “Barbara Sykes combines impressive leadership skills with a lifetime dedicated to public and community service. We are pleased and honored to have someone with her stature, passion and experience to lead AARP Ohio into the future.”
Sykes, a graduate of the University of Akron where she earned her undergraduate degree in social work and her master’s degree in public administration, served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives from 2000-2006.
Barbara has also been Deputy Auditor for Summit County, the Past President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and she was the first African-American woman to serve on the Akron City Council.
For the last ten years she has served as president and CEO of Ohio United Way (OUW)–the state association for United Ways in Ohio–where she worked to strengthen local United Ways with an emphasis on education, health and financial stability.
During her tenure at OUW, she made the 2-1-1 health and human service information referral system a priority. She secured over $2 M in federal, state and private funding for the program, making this gateway to vital services available to 10.6 M Ohioans across 91% of the state.
“Particularly impressive is the work Barbara has done to engage legislators from both sides of the aisle around the challenges and issues Ohio families face. Establishing regular contact and building relationships is crucial to our social advocacy work,” said McNally.
Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (91st District) of the Ohio House added: “Although I did not have the privilege of serving in the Ohio House alongside Barbara, I have come to know the Sykes family well at the Ohio Statehouse, and I truly admire Barbara’s passion for selflessly serving others. I know she will take that commitment, combined with her experience with local and state issues and policies, to lead and represent AARP Ohio into continued success.”
“I am grateful to be appointed to this leadership position with AARP,” Sykes said. “I am very appreciative to join the staff and volunteers who are passionate about and committed to this organization and its social mission to fight for and equip each individual to live their best life.”
Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (Ohio, 11th District) said, “She will be a proven asset and presence in this state who will be a staunch advocate for our seniors and will influence AARP’s growing impact as an organization.
“Barbara is a well-respected, visionary servant leader, who I know will continue her life’s work as a dedicated champion for Ohioans through AARP.”
Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Amstutz (1st District), of the Ohio House, added: “Barbara and I have been friends for years from our work together as legislators. I’ve seen her at work with the United Way and she has really hit her stride in the non-profit world. She will be a tremendous asset to AARP and their members.”
Lisa Bateson, Ohio United Way Board Chair, commented: “I have tremendous respect for Barbara. I have known her for over 16 years and have always known her to be a strong advocate, dedicated to helping the most needy in our society. AARP will benefit from her as a leader.”
Throughout her career, Sykes has been recognized for her outstanding community service and leadership through various awards from numerous organizations, some of which include: Ohio Jewish Communities; Akron Community Health Resources, Inc; Women of Color Foundation; and Legislator of the Year by the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, Second Harvest for Hunger, and Voices for Children of Greater Cleveland.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger said, “Barbara has dedicated her life to fighting for Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens, and I know she will continue that fight in this new role. I have worked in partnership with her for more than two decades on a variety of health and human services issues, and she has demonstrated a true commitment to hungry Ohioans. As a friend, colleague and fellow advocate, I look forward to continuing our long partnership in her new role.”