Our Officers

Representative Juanita Brent – House District 12

President

BrentA graduate of Cleveland Heights’ Beaumont School, Juanita Brent always knew she wanted to serve the communities she calls home.

As a member of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Women’s Caucus and a former member of the board of trustees for the Health Care Service Corporation, the largest customer-owned health insurer in the country, Brent knows how important it is to provide women and families with access to affordable, quality health care.

Prior to holding elected office, Brent also worked as a field director for the Ohio Democratic Party and founded Social Society Cleveland, a nonprofit professional networking organization. She currently sits on the board of the Harvard Community Services Center’s Lee-Harvard Community Development Center and is eager to bring her experience building and organizing strong communities to Columbus.

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Representative Catherine Ingram – House District 32

1st Vice President

Representative Catherine Ingram, was elected to her first term in the Ohio General Assembly in 2016. As a public servant, university instructor, realtor, neighborhood leader, mom and grandmother, Catherine Ingram knows how much the decisions made in Columbus personally impact all of us.

Catherine Ingram has been a member of the Cincinnati Board of Education for over 20 years, serving as president and vice president in the mid-’90s. Ms. Ingram has served on numerous board committees and, for many years, in a leadership role as Finance Committee chair. In 2000, she earned the prestigious honor of being just one of five board members in the state to be named to OSBA’s All-Ohio School Board. At the state and national levels, she served on OSBA’s Board of Trustees and Executive Committee and the Federal Relations Network.

Ingram serves on boards of the United Way/Community Chest; Leadership Cincinnati XX; Great Rivers Girl Scout Council; Greater Cincinnati Black Achiever Award program; Mayerson Human Resource Academy; and Cincinnati Recreation Commission. Recognized as a leader in the community, Ms. Ingram has multiple accolades including being honored with the Delta Sigma Theta Achieving Women Award and recognized in the 2003-04 edition of Who’s Who in Black Cincinnati.

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Dontavius Jarrells – House District 25

2nd Vice President

2940State Rep. Dontavius Jarrells is currently serving in his first term representing Ohio’s 25th House District, which includes portions of Columbus, Clinton Township and Mifflin Township.

Growing up in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland, Jarrells saw firsthand the impact a lack of real investment and opportunity has on a community, and after nearly a decade fighting for disadvantaged and marginalized communities in Central Ohio, Rep. Jarrells is committed to reframing the debate in the Statehouse to focus on growing opportunity for all Ohioans not just those at the top. 

Jarrells is prioritizing legislation to raise wages, invest in job training and make it easier for Ohioans, especially those in minority and immigrant communities, to start, grow and sustain a business.

Rep. Jarrells’ previously held positions at the Ohio House during the 129th General Assembly, where he assisted in the fight of the anti-union Senate Bill 5. He has also fought to expand health care access in his roles at the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. In addition, he has served as Political Director for a statewide executive office race and most recently served as Chief of Communications at the Franklin County Treasurer’s Office.

Rep. Jarrells graduated from East Technical High School in Cleveland and earned a degree from Hiram College in Northeast Ohio.

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Representative Terrence Upchurch – House District 10

Treasurer

Terrence Upchurch recently served as a special assistant to Cleveland City Council and previously worked alongside Cuyahoga County Councilman Anthony Hairston. From his time working in city council, Terrence has learned and developed a keen understanding of the nuances of government which he brings to the Statehouse.

Terrence understands the importance of forming relationships in Columbus, bipartisanship, and will create a platform to fight for working class families and help municipalities meet the basic needs of its people, including essential services like police and fire rescue. In District 10 and all across Ohio, Terrence wants to reverse the impact constituents have felt of a state legislature that continues to cut community resources.

He vows to be a true and trusted ally in the Statehouse for his community. From rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, to ensuring students receive a quality education, to increasing Ohio’s local government fund, Terrence believes we can once again lead the nation in innovation and sustainability.

Born and raised in the greater Collinwood and Glenville communities, Terrence is a proud graduate of St. Peter Chanel High School. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Cleveland State University and is pursuing a Master’s of Public Administration Degree from Villanova University.

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Representative Sedrick Denson – House District 33

Secretary

DensonState Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-Cincinnati) is a third generation Cincinnatian who has dedicated his entire career to empowering, leading and serving the citizens of Cincinnati. He currently represents Ohio’s 33rd House District.

Rep. Denson attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts to study drama, dance, music theatre and percussion. While studying there, he met a City Council-member, making him realize the impact a public servant could have on the community. He went on to study Organizational Leadership at the University of Cincinnati. Upon graduating, Rep. Denson began his career with the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency as an educator in Consumer Energy. He then served as Chief of Staff to Council-member Wendell Young – working to bring fresh foods to, and reduce the infant mortality rate in underserved neighborhoods.

After serving in City Hall, Rep. Denson went on to serve as Southwest Ohio Outreach Director for For Ohio’s Future Action Fund, a labor-backed organization that charged him with building a coalition of progressive and inclusive organizations and community leaders to move key issues forward in the region. He is currently the Southwest Ohio Director for the Ohio Environmental Council where he works daily to help protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and public spaces we enjoy.  In addition to his work at the OEC, Sedrick is Political Action Chair for Greater Cincinnati National Action Network, Government Affairs Chair for African American Chamber of Commerce.  He resides in the community of Bond Hill and has one son, Harper, with partner Melanie.

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Senator Hearcel Craig – Senate District – 15

Sergeant at Arms & Chaplain

CraigHearcel F. Craig (D-Columbus) brings a strong background of public service to the Statehouse as he serves in his first term as state Senator following two two-year terms as state Representative.

Craig’s commitment to the residents of Columbus began decades ago when he worked as legislative liaison for the Ohio Department of Youth Services. During his tenure at ODYS, Craig drafted legislation and secured legislative sponsorship for bills introduced in the Ohio General Assembly, including legislation which secured $83 million for much needed capital improvements to ODYS facilities.

Craig continued his work with young people when he served as director of recruitment & admissions for City Year, a program that recruits young adults to work full-time for one year on various social service projects around Columbus.

As former executive director of the Hilltop Civic Council, Craig managed a comprehensive social service agency that served 10,000 people annually in one of Columbus’ historic neighborhoods. Directing the Hilltop Civic Council’s 35-person staff and administering its $1.2 million annual budget, Craig supervised programs for a comprehensive community health care center, youth and senior services, a resettlement center for new Americans and a food and clothing pantry.

Later elected as a Columbus City Councilmember, Craig led the city’s Veterans Affairs Committee to help meet the needs of veterans, service personnel and their families. He has worked to connect veterans with existing services and resources in the community and created new initiatives like the Better Municipal Care for Veterans Home Fund, which helps veterans and their families make needed repairs to their homes. Craig also served as the chair of the Recreation, Public Utilities, Health & Human Services and Judiciary committees.

During the past three decades, Craig has volunteered his time as a trustee on numerous community service boards, many focused on education. He has served as a member of the Columbus Public Schools Equity Task Force, the Columbus State Community College Department of Business and Industry Technology Curriculum Committee, the Southside Learning and Development Center’s Board of Trustees, the Ohio Hunger Task Force Board of Trustees and the Columbus Cultural Arts Center Board of Trustees. He recently served on the board of the Military Veterans Resource Center. Craig also served as board chair for the Alliance for Cooperative Justice, board chair for the Franklin County Prevention Institute and chair of the State Education Committee for the Columbus Chapter of the NAACP. Craig was named the 2011 Public Servant of the Year by Community Shares of Mid-Ohio.

Senator Craig earned a Master of Science in Administration degree from Central Michigan University and was a Join Together National Leadership Fellow at Boston University School of Public Health. Craig pursued a Graduate Studies degree in Theology from Ashland Theological Seminary and is a graduate of Leadership Columbus and Leadership Ohio. He proudly served our nation in the United States Army from 1970-1972.

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Senator Vernon Sykes – Senate District – 28

Parliamentarian

Vernon SykesSenator Vernon Sykes is currently serving his first term in the Ohio State Senate, representing the 28th district. The 28th district includes: Akron, Barberton, Coventry, Green, Lakemore, Mogadore, Springfield, Tallmadge, and portions of Bath and Cuyahoga Falls.

Senator Sykes has dedicated much of his life to public service. He previously served in Akron City Council and the Ohio House of Representatives. Since 2001, Dr. Sykes has passed along his experience in public service to students as a professor of Political Science and Director of the Columbus Program in State Issues at Kent State University.

During his time in office, Senator Sykes has worked to improve life for ordinary Ohioans. He’s fought passionately to expand access to early childhood education and make higher education more affordable. He’s also passed bipartisan legislation to fight child abuse and prevent housing discrimination against people with disabilities.

Senator Sykes is a longtime advocate for redistricting reform. As a Representative, his bipartisan efforts led to successful ballot initiatives to redraw Ohio’s state legislative and congressional districts. Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved the ballot initiatives.  Senator Sykes believes districts drawn in a fairer way give Ohioans more choices, which better reflect their needs at the Statehouse and in Congress.

His dedication to his constituents earned him several leadership positions while a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. He 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. He was also honored to be chosen as President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.

He has been the recipient of several distinguished awards throughout his career. This includes the 2012 “Public Elected Official of the Year award” from the National Association of Social Workers, the 2015 “Champion for Working Families & Civil Rights Award” from the Ohio AFL-CIO, the 2018 “Legislative Champion of the Year” by the Ohio Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, the 2018 “Outstanding Contributions to Health Education Award” from the Ohio Society of Public Health Education, the 2018 “Legislator of the Year Award” by the Ohio Association of Elections Officials, and the 2018 “Small Business Advocate of the Year Award” from the Greater Cleveland Partnership and its Council of Smaller Enterprises.

Dr. Sykes earned his B.B.A. in Management and Organizational Behavior from Ohio University. He also holds a Masters of Social and Applied Economics from Wright State University and a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard University. He later earned a Ph.D. in Public Administration from the University of Akron.

Senator Sykes is married to Barbara Sykes, president and CEO of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation.  They have two daughters, Stancy and Emilia, and two grandchildren, Hugh and Hope.

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Representative Emilia Sykes – House District 34

Born and raised in Akron, State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes was elected to represent her hometown (OH-34) in November 2014. Four years later, Sykes was elected by her colleagues to serve in leadership as the Minority Leader of the Ohio House of Representatives.

As a representative, Sykes has pushed an aggressive job creation plan, fighting to keep local jobs for local workers and expand opportunities for middle and working-class families in Akron. She has supported young leadership and mentoring programs to inspire young people to reach their goals.

Rep. Sykes has also worked with healthcare professionals and colleagues to improve public health, increase access to care, and combat Ohio’s high infant mortality rate. Her passion for social justice extends to issues such as voter rights, criminal justice reform, a more efficient social safety net for struggling Ohioans, and an end to domestic violence. In the 132nd General Assembly, she has pushed a bipartisan proposal to establish teen dating violence awareness with hopes of stopping abuse before it starts. House Bill 94 was unanimously passed.

Sykes previously served as Administrative Staff Adviser at the Summit County Fiscal Office, where she worked to establish a county land bank to re-purpose vacant and abandoned properties. She attended Kent State University, graduating magna cum laude with a B.A. in Psychology, as well as the University of Florida, where she earned a Juris Doctor with a Certificate in Family Law from the Levin College of Law and a Masters of Public Health from the College of Public Health and Health Professions.
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Representative Paula Hicks-Hudson – House District 44

As the first black female mayor of Toledo, State Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson has always exhibited a commitment to empowering and helping people improve their quality of life. She currently represents Ohio’s 44th House District, which includes central Toledo.

Raised in the city of Hamilton, Ohio, Rep. Hicks-Hudson often cites education as a pathway to success. She graduated from Spelman College, a historically black high education institution for women, with her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Journalism. Rep. Hudson then went on to graduate with her Master’s Degree in Communications Development from Colorado State University.

While teaching readiness skills to underprepared students in the Upward Bound Program at Central State University, Paula saw the challenges that young people faced with the legal system leading Rep. Hicks-Hudson to return to law school with a focus on juvenile justice issues.

After graduating with her Juris Doctorate from the University of Iowa, Rep. Hicks-Hudson moved with her family to Toledo in 1982.

Rep. Hicks-Hudson’s purpose has centered on improving the quality of her community through her hard work in the public and private sector. During her 35-year professional career, she has held many notable positions such as assistant Lucas County prosecutor, assistant public defender, assistant state attorney general, Toledo City Council , in addition to director and deputy director of the Lucas County Board of Elections and chief legal counsel to the Ohio Office of Budget and Management under Governor Ted Strickland.

Outside of her dedicated, successful professional career, she enjoys many rich connections and activities with family and friends. She has been married to Freeman W. Hudson since 1973 and is the proud mother of two adult daughters, Patricia Hope and Leah Free Star, and grandmother of seven grandchildren. An accomplished musician, Hudson serves as the minister of music at Redeemer Lutheran Church.
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Senator Cecil Thomas – Senate District 9

ohio Senate Assistant Minority Leader

AshfordSenator Cecil Thomas was elected in November 2014 to serve Ohio’s 9th Senate district, which includes parts of Cincinnati, St. Bernard, Elmwood Place, Norwood, Golf Manor, Hollydale, Columbia Township, Silverton and Springfield Township. Senator Thomas is a product of a working-class family, born in rural Alabama in 1952. Prior to joining the state legislature, Senator Thomas graduated from the University of Cincinnati; he joined the Cincinnati Police Department where he spent twenty-seven years working throughout all 52 neighborhoods. In addition, Senator Thomas has served in the role of Executive Directorship of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, as well as President Pro Temp and Chairman of the Law and Public Safety Committee while being a member of Cincinnati City Council. Senator Thomas currently serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and State and Local Committee for the 131st General Assembly.  In addition to his leadership roles, Senator Thomas will also serve on the following committees: Education, Civil Justice, Insurance, Financial Institutions, Finance Subcommittee on Education (K-12) and Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education.
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Senator Tina Maharath – Senate District 21

ohio senate Assistant Minority whip

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State Senator Tina Maharath (D-Columbus) is serving her first term in the Ohio Senate after being elected to the General Assembly in November 2018. She represents the 3rd Senate District, which encompasses areas of Franklin County, including Whitehall, Gahanna, Westerville, New Albany, Groveport, Canal Winchester, the Hilltop and parts of Columbus. She is the first Asian-American woman elected to the Ohio Senate.

A native of Whitehall, Tina chose to dedicate her life to public service at a young age, inspired by her upbringing as the daughter of refugee parents from the Southeast Asian nation of Laos. Her father served the U.S. Army under the Laos Army while her mother worked as a nurse in the Laos Army.

A warrior for underserved, troubled youth, Tina has had to live through a number of adverse events. She lost her mother and two brothers in a fatal car accident while she was still a young teen studying in France. Tina leaned on her community to overcome such a tragedy and decided to return that support by devoting herself to that very same community.

Before being elected to office, she helped organize Columbus’ annual Asian Festival as the chair for the Volunteer Committee. She served on the Lao Volunteer Donation Association’s advisory board and on the organizing committee for Ohio’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Legislative Day, an event she went on to chair.

She volunteers for various organizations throughout central Ohio, including Legacies of War, Ohio Asian American Health Coalition, Community Refugee Immigration Services, Community Shelter Board and Asian American Community Services. In her free time, she also mentors young adults who, like her, have had rough upbringings and advocates for issues that impact people facing trauma.  Despite all the trauma she faced at such a young age, Tina used her strength to complete her secondary and higher education.  Tina currently resides in Canal Winchester with her son, Teng.                                                                                                                                                 View Senate Page