U.S. Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes, ’07, Strives to Deliver Meaningful, Bipartisan Results for the People of Ohio’s 13th District
In 2022, U.S. Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes, ’07, became the first Black person elected to represent Ohio’s 13th Congressional District. For eight years, Sykes served as the state representative for House District 34, including three years as the leader of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus. Now serving in the United States House of Representatives, Sykes has committed to fighting for economic opportunity, safer communities and affordable healthcare for Northeast Ohioans, with the spirit of bipartisan cooperation to get things done for those she serves.
KSU: Why Kent State? What made you choose Kent State over other schools?
ES: I chose Kent State because I knew I would receive a top-notch, affordable education right in my backyard. I particularly connected with Kent State’s emphasis on taking your education beyond the classroom to solve real-world problems. I knew Kent State would give me the foundation I needed to be able to make a positive difference in my community.
KSU: What motivated you to pursue politics, and how did your interest grow over the years from state to national government?
ES: Both of my parents were public servants, so I learned from a young age the importance of service. Funny enough, I never intended to run for office. But when an opportunity to serve my neighbors in the state legislature arose, I took it, because I knew I could make a difference and give back to the people and community that raised me.
As a state representative, I was able to learn the intricate connections between state and federal politics, and how both were important in the lives of everyday Ohioans. The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, moved me to run for Congress. I, like many Americans, became incredibly concerned with the state of our democracy and just could not leave it to chance. I’m thankful that the people of Ohio’s 13th District elected me to serve them, and I will fight every day in Congress to protect, preserve and strengthen our democracy.
KSU: What are you most proud of from your political work thus far?
ES: I’m most proud of my work to pass Ohio House Bill 1, bipartisan, priority legislation to protect the safety and security of people in violent relationships. It was the first time that a member of the minority party carried the priority piece of legislation to the best of our research.
I’m also proud of the success I’ve had working across the aisle to deliver meaningful results that improve the lives of Ohioans. During my first year as Ohio House minority leader, our caucus was able to successfully work with the majority to pass nearly double the percentage of bipartisan bills compared to the previous two legislative sessions.
KSU: What are you excited to do in the future and in your new U.S. representative role for Ohio’s 13th District?
ES: I’m humbled to have the honor of representing the people of Ohio’s 13th District in Congress. I’m excited to work for my constituents, learn more about the needs of our communities and, ultimately, deliver meaningful, bipartisan results for the people of Ohio’s 13th District.
KSU: Was your father influential in your decision to pursue politics?
ES: Yes, he was, but it was ultimately my mother who sat with me and honestly discussed what the job would entail, and encouraged me in a way that made me confident in my ability to carry out the duties well and fuel meaningful work. Now, I often look to both of my parents for their wisdom, experience and advice on how best to serve.
KSU: What does it mean to you to be the first Black person to represent Ohio’s 13th District?
ES: It is truly humbling and an honor to be the first Black person to represent Ohio’s 13th District. I don’t take this duty lightly — I recognize the importance of having a congresswoman that my constituents can identify with, one that understands the issues they face every day. And I hope that my position illustrates that we belong here, in the halls of Congress and beyond.
KSU: What was your experience like at Kent State? Any special memories or mentors?
ES: I cannot speak highly enough about my experience at Kent State. One of my favorite memories was participating in the Italian language program in Florence, Italy. I was also fortunate to have Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett as a mentor. She was my psychology advisor and was tough, kind and still encourages me to this day.