Ten Questions is a weekly feature by the Daily News profiling some of our many local community leaders.
1. Who are you? Robert Sykes, Ionia, 59, Ionia County Probate Court judge.
2. Describe your judge duties/responsibilities in 50 words or less: I preside over estate and trust administration, guardianships, conservatorships, mental health treatment petitions, adoptions, child protection proceedings and juvenile delinquency cases.
3. What is your favorite part about your job? What’s the most challenging? Easily the most favorite part of my job is presiding over adoption finalization hearings. It is an honor to be a part of something so important and meaningful to everyone involved. The most challenging is trying to motivate parents in child protection cases to make the necessary changes in their lives to ensure that they can provide a safe home for their children.
4. What local issues are the most important to you, and what are some of your main priorities in your capacity as judge this year? Continuing to address the rampant drug problem — primarily methamphetamine and all the problems it creates — is always a priority. Simply stated, meth is ruining too many families. Somehow, we must figure out a way to get this scourge under control. My main priorities are constant-treat everyone who comes before the court with respect, allow them to have their day in court, and make the best decision possible based upon the law and facts presented.
5. What’s your favorite local bar/restaurant, and why? It’s a three-way tie between Lamplight Grill, Olivera’s and El Mariachi Mexican Grill. Each is locally owned and operated and has made a commitment to the Ionia community. I am looking forward to El Mariachi relocating to downtown Ionia this spring.
6. What’s a hidden gem in your community that most people might not know about? The Fred Thwaites Grand River Trail, not to be confused with the Frederick Meijer Trail. It is blacktopped and runs along the Grand River from the fairgrounds to Quarry Road, with a tree canopy that provides plenty of shade. It is not as busy as the Meijer Trail and is a great place to take a leisurely walk or bike ride with nature.
7. What TV shows/movies/books have you enjoyed lately, and why? I am a big fan of open-wheel racing and the Indianapolis 500. I just finished reading “Indy Split: The Big Money Battle That Nearly Destroyed Indy Racing.” The book traces the history of American open-wheel racing from the establishment of the Indy 500 in 1911 through 2020 and highlights the decades long fight for control of Indy car racing and the Indy 500. It will all be fresh in my mind as I return to the Brickyard once again this Memorial Day weekend for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
8. What do you like the most about living in your particular community? What’s one thing you would change/add/remove if you could? I was born and raised in Ionia and chose to return here to work and raise my family. I like the small-town feel, yet larger cities and all that they offer are within an easy drive. I would restore the viable and varied downtown business district that I remember from my youth if I could, but unfortunately, that does not appear likely.
9. What stories/columns/features do you enjoy reading the most in the Daily News? I really enjoy your coverage of high school athletics. I also enjoy your coverage of the courts, local governments and school boards. If public officials do not feel comfortable with the press attending and covering their public meetings, then they should not be in public office.
10. What is your favorite joke? And if you could be anyone, who would it be? (random questions submitted by last week’s subject, Montcalm County Prosecutor Andrea Krause) Judge Sykes: Decorum prevents me from providing my favorite joke, but here is one for all ages and tastes: What is Irish and comes out every spring? Patio furniture (Paddy O’Furniture). Regarding the second question, I am very content with who I am and would not choose to be anyone else — although maybe a younger version would be of interest. If I could select a different job, I would choose to be a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. I would have the comfort of a lifetime appointment while knowing that I would be deciding important legal issues that will affect Americans for decades to come.
Judge Sykes can be contacted at email@example.com.
Ten Questions is compiled by News Editor Elisabeth Waldon.