Director of the Office of Management and Budget: Who Is Sylvia Mathews Burwell?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

President Barack Obama went to Wal-Mart to get his new budget chief, naming Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who is president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, as his nominee to be the next director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Burwell, who served as deputy director during the Clinton administration, would succeed Acting Director Jeffrey Zients, who followed Director Jacob Lew, who left OMB more than a year ago and recently received Senate confirmation as the new secretary of the Treasury.


Although this will be her first government job under the Obama administration, Burwell served as Obama-Biden transition agency review lead for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 2008-2009.


Born in 1965 and raised in Hinton, West Virginia, Burwell is the daughter of optometrist Dr. William Mathews and Hinton Mayor Cleo Mathews. Valedictorian of her class at Hinton High School in 1983, Burwell earned a B.A. in Government from Harvard University in 1987 and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.


Burwell began her career during college, serving as an intern for her Congressman, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia) and as an aide to Gov. Michael Dukakis (D-Massachusetts). From 1990 to 1992, she was an associate at McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm based in New York.


After working on the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign of 1998 and the Bill Clinton campaign of 1992, Burwell served the Clinton Administration in various posts, starting as manager of Clinton’s economic transition team from 1992 to 1993 and staff director of the National Economic Council from 1993 to 1995. She served as chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin from 1995 to 1997, deputy chief of staff to President Clinton from 1997 to 1998, and OMB deputy director from 1998 to 2001.


Leaving government after the 2000 election, Burwell was immediately hired by the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation to work as its chief operating officer and executive director, posts she held from January 2001 until a reorganization in 2006, when she became president of Global Development. Passed over for the CEO position when it became available in 2008, Burwell left the Gates Foundation in late 2011 to become president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, which she led starting in January 2012.


Burwell is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, the Aspen Strategy Group and the Nike Foundation Advisory Group. She has been a director of MetLife and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company since January 2004.


Burwell is married to attorney Stephen Burwell, with whom she has one child. A lifelong Democrat, she has donated $15,850 to Democratic candidates and causes, including $2,500 to the Democratic National Committee; $3,000 to Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign; $2,600 to President Obama’s 2008 run; $250 to Hillary Clinton’s 2006 U.S. Senate campaign; and $2,900 to Alan Khazei’s two primary campaigns for U.S. Senate from Massachusetts.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Walmart Biography

Hinton Native Tapped: Obama Picks Foundation Chief Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Former Clinton Administration Economics Team Member to Head OMB (by David M. Kinchen, Huntington News)

Burwell as Obama's Budget Director: Walmart Wins, Working Families Lose (by Bertha Lewis, The Guardian)


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