Karen G. Mills

Head of the Small Business Administration (2009-2013)

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Why She Matters

The Obama administration announced on Feb. 11, 2013, that Mills was leaving her post as head of the SBA. “Because of Karen’s hard work and dedication, our small businesses are better positioned to create jobs and our entire economy is stronger,” President Obama said in a statement.

A venture capitalist with experience in starting a business, Mills joined the administration as the SBA head in 2009. Some though it likely that Mills, whose job President Obama elevated to Cabinet rank last year, would stay on in a second term. But now it seems there’s another job opening for the White House to fill.

The SBA guarantees loans to small businesses (thus providing support for investors starting a new company) and it can make direct loans to homeowners or businesses that need help recovering from a natural disaster.

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One year later, the Small Business Administration finally has a new leader

(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

More than a year later, the last remaining seat at the table finally has a Senate-confirmed replacement.

Karen Mills leaving SBA — but replacement not yet named

The small-business chief had said she would stay until a successor was named.


Obama and Biden have managed to get a few ambassador confirmations while on the road


Confirmations have slowed, but those who’ve made it have done so with Obama and Biden on the road.

Small-biz chief Karen Mills stepping down

The head of the Small Business Administration could announce her resignation as soon as Monday.


At a Glance

  • Career History: Director at Scotts Miracle-Gro; Director of Arrow Electronics; President of MMP Group (1993 to 2009)
  • Birthday: Not Available
  • Hometown: Not Available
  • Alma Mater: A.B. (economics) Harvard University in 1975; MBA from Harvard Business School
  • Spouse: Barry Mills
  • DC Office: 409 3rd Street, SW; Phone: 1-800-827-5722
  • Web site

Path to Power

Mills graduated from Harvard University with a degree in economics in 1975, and earned her MBA from the same institution. After college, she worked at McKinsey & Co., consulting in the U.S. as well as Europe. She has also worked at General Foods in product management.

In 1999, Mills joined a group of women to start Solera Capital. It's a New York venture- capital firm that invests in various businesses that produce natural and organic food, health-care companies and publishing firms. She worked as a managing director at Solera until 2007.

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The Issues

Obama tapped Mills to head the SBA in December 2008. She joined an effort to strengthen the U.S. economy as it struggled to reverse a massive downturn.

"To strengthen our economy, we must also strengthen the small businesses that are its backbone," Obama said when he announced Mills as SBA head, adding that he was "confident that Karen will lead an SBA that will not only help small-business owners realize their dreams, but help our nation rebuild our economy."

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The Network

Mills served on the boards at Scotts Miracle Gro, along with the company's chief executive James Hagedorn and its COO Mark Baker. She also served on the board of Arrow Electronics, along with its CEO William Mitchell and the retired president and CEO of Shell Chemical, M.F. Keeth, as well as Colgate-Palmolive's chief financial officer Stephen Patrick. Mills worked with then-Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D).

She's married to Bowdoin College's president, Barry Mills.


Campaign Contributions

Mills has donated more than $62,000 to various candidates on both side of the aisle since 1996. She donated $23,900 to the DNC Services Corp. in 2008.

Mills gave $2,300 to Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), top Republican on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, $5,600 to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), including $4,600 during his tough 2008 re-election race, and $4,600 to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in 2007.


Additional Resources

  1. Center for Responsive Politics
  2. "President-elect Barack Obama this afternoon nominated venture capital expert...," washingtonpost.com, Dec. 19, 2008
  3. Mills, Karen G., "President-elect Obama announces choices for Transportation, Labor, SBA and USTR posts," press release, Dec. 19, 2008
  4. http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2008/~/media/Files/rc/papers/2008/04_competitiveness_reamer/Clusters%20Brief.pdf
  5. McLoone, Sharon, "SBA Chief Calls Transition Experience 'Exceptional," Washingtonpost.com, Dec. 3, 2008
  6. President Obama, "President-elect Obama announces choices for Transportation, Labor, SBA and USTR posts," press release, Dec. 19, 2008
  7. Wickenheiser, Matt, "SBA pick's 'analytical mind' praised ; The president-elect cites Karen Mills' background in the private sector as a factor in his choice," Portland Press Herald, Dec. 20, 2008
  8. http://idea.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/825542/000095015208009725/l34070ae10vk.htm