Don Sykes was one of Milwaukee’s most prominent leaders in the war against poverty. Called a “Champion of the Poor,” Don served as the Social Development Commission’s executive director from 1968 to 1988. During his tenure, Don shaped SDC so it was a catalyst for change. He fought against issues like police brutality and racism. He also helped create the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association, an umbrella organization at the state level.
From 2007 to 2014, Don continued his focus on poverty. During this period, he was president and chief executive officer of the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, known today as Employ Milwaukee. This allowed him to attack poverty in another way by creating jobs.
Because of his strong leadership and success, the Clinton Administration appointed Don Sykes as director of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Community Relations. It was his dream job as it gave him an opportunity to strengthen Community Action Agencies around the country.
Don Sykes had a passion for people. He developed talent by mentoring future leaders, hiring low income residents and teaching University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students.
For this reason, we celebrate Don Sykes.