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Public Service Trailblazer Set to Lead Older Ohioans

New AARP Ohio state director Barbara Sykes says she's made advocating for the needs of Ohioans her life work. (AARP Ohio)
New AARP Ohio state director Barbara Sykes says she's made advocating for the needs of Ohioans her life work. (AARP Ohio)
August 29, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio – She's blazed trails in the public and social service sector in Ohio, and now former state Rep. Barbara Sykes is ready to lead Ohio's 50-plus set.

As she begins work today as state director for AARP Ohio, Sykes hopes to enhance the work the organization does to ensure older Ohioans live the best life possible.

Sykes explains she's made advocating for the needs of Ohioans her life’s work, starting with her first job as a social worker in Akron.

"I want to make sure that the services provided through government and private sector are those that they absolutely need, the services that would help them to lead a full, productive, healthy life,” she states. “So I think that I would continue to be a positive advocate."

Sykes was the first African-American woman to serve on the Akron City Council and served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives.

She says her top priorities for older Ohioans are protecting economic security, preventing fraud and supporting the state's caregivers.

Rawle Andrews, AARP’s regional vice president, says Sykes is a thought leader with a people-first, can-do attitude. And he adds her impressive record at the Statehouse of working across both sides of the aisle will help elevate the needs of older Ohioans and their families.

"A lot of times, we're trying to read tea leaves based on what we think a lawmaker is going to do,” Andrews says. “Barbara has been in those roles, and she will bring a new and different take."

Sykes also plans to focus on the state's increasing multicultural population, and ensuring Hispanic, Asian, African-American, Somali communities, along with others are represented.

"So we want to be as open and as inclusive as well as looking at our rural areas, our urban areas to make sure that we have good representation in the membership of AARP,” she stresses.

Sykes says she's grateful for the new position, and ready to serve AARP's 1.5 million members in Ohio.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH