County names new social services chief

Prince William County has appointed A. Keith Sykes, a Hampton executive, as the new director of its Department of Social Services.

Sykes will replace Ric Perez, who will retire at the end of October after 27 years as director, according to a recent Prince William County press release.

Sykes, the co-founder and current director of Square One, a regional school readiness initiative, said he is anxious to begin work in Prince William County and considers his new job a plum assignment.

Sometimes, Sykes said, those living in a community are unaware that others hold their government in high regard.

“Prince William County, from the government perspective, is known throughout the state, and the nation as well, as a model of an effective local government,” said Sykes, whose current job includes working with communities to make sure children are prepared to succeed in kindergarten.

“I’m very excited about it. The department has done a very good job over the years. Ric Perez has been known and respected in the state,” Sykes, 54, said.

“They’re doing an awful lot of things right. Prince William is a very attractive place to live and work,” Sykes said.

Sykes began his social services career in Hampton in 1976 when he worked as division chief for Family and Childrens’ Services in Hampton, the release said.

He holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Davidson College in North Carolina, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Arkansas and served a one-year Children and Family Fellowship at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, the release said.

Sykes said his most immediate task when he arrives will be to deal with budget cuts looming thanks to a $1.5 billion revenue shortfall in Richmond.

“I think the biggest thing in front of us is dealing with the state budget situation,” Sykes said. “We’re expecting news any time state funding, which is about twenty-five percent of the department’s budget each year, so we’re anxious to see what’s going to happen in that process.”

“We know that something is going to happen, but we don’t know what,” Sykes said, “So it’s obvious that some type of reduction is going to happen in the dollars that we receive from the state.”

Sykes said he intends to allow the department staff to find ways to maintain services under budget restrictions.

“The tradition there, in the department, is to involve as many of the staff as possible to give everybody a chance to have a say, and that’s something we will continue,” Sykes said.

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