Emilia Strong Sykes is a Democratic politician now serving as the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 13th Congressional District. She was sworn into that post on January 3, 2023.
Sykes was born on January 4, 1986, in Akron, Ohio, and grew up on the city’s west side. Her father, Vernon Sykes, served on the Akron City Council and in the Ohio House of Representatives for the 28th district from 1983 to 2000 and from 2007 to 2014. Her mother, Barbara, was pregnant with Emilia when she was elected as the first African American woman to serve on the Akron City Council. Barbara Sykes also served as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives 44th district from 2001 to 2006.
Emilia Sykes was a dancer, and an accomplished gymnast in her youth, winning a state championship in high school. She graduated from the Akron Public School system and received her BA in psychology from Kent State University in Ohio. Sykes briefly attended Tuskegee University in Alabama in 2006 before transferring to the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she obtained her JD. She earned her Masters in Public Health from the College of Public Health and Health Professionals at the University of Florida.
Sykes first served as the administrative advisor for the Summit County, Ohio, fiscal office. She also worked as a law clerk to the Chief Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Georgia. In 2013, she announced her candidacy for the Ohio House of Representatives, running for the seat being vacated by her father, who was term limited. She defeated Republican Cynthia Blake with 72% of the vote and assumed the office as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives from the 34th district on January 6, 2015.
During her tenure, Sykes was appointed ranking member on the House Finance Committee that oversees the budget. She introduced several bills and held the positions of Assistant Whip and Minority Whip, before becoming Minority Leader (2019-2021). She was awarded the Gabby Giffords Rising Star Award in 2020 from Emily’s List, a national organization that supports women candidates for office. In 2022 Sykes supported the campaign of now President Joe Biden.
In January 2022, Sykes announced her candidacy for the newly formed U.S. House Ohio 13th district, previously separated into four districts; Akron, Summit, Stark and Portage counties. She defeated Madison Gesiotto Gilbert with 52% of the vote. With her win, the Sykes family has held as seat in the Ohio House and State House of Representative for 40 years. She served on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
The entire Sykes family have long been invested in public service. Her father continues to serve as the Ohio State Senator for the 28th district (2017- ), her mother serves as the State Director for AARP, and her older sister, Stancy Sherman, is a teacher in the Akron public school system. Sykes resides in Summit County, Ohio with her husband, Kevin Boyce.