New at the Top

Bill Sweeney

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Position: President and chief executive, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a District-based organization that provides election assistance to countries around the world.

Career Highlights: Vice president, Global Government Affairs, Electronic Data Systems; president and founder, Washington Resources & Strategy; deputy chairman, Democratic National Committee; executive director, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Age: 58

Education: BA, political science, American University.

Personal: Lives in McLean with wife Susan. They have two daughters.

How did you get to where you are?

Like many others, I thought . . . I'd figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. Guess I never grew up. The result was an interesting career.

After graduating from American, I worked for the Montgomery County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, which led to an introduction with Ted Henshaw, director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. As executive director of the DCCC, I got to know Chuck Manatt and helped him become Democratic National Committee chairman in 1981. I worked for the DNC as deputy chairman from '81 to '85.

Winning and losing elections has been a real highlight for me. Sometimes you learn more losing an election. I've treasured the array of people, friendships and relationships that I've been able to build and keep over the course of a career.

With more than a decade of political experience, I started my own consulting firm, Washington Resources & Strategy, which closed in 1991. That year, I joined Electronic Data Systems as director of government affairs. EDS had a terrific entrepreneurial culture and it was on the cutting edge of the application of information technology and public policy.

I stayed with EDS for 17 years, moving my way up to vice president of global government affairs.

I also [served as a volunteer on] the management team for the last six presidential inaugural committees, from Bush 41 to Obama 44. To be a witness to history is a great honor. [For Obama's ceremony], I remember putting the names on the seats. It's part of the program protocol -- Bush sits here, Obama sits here, Biden sits here, etc. And it's about 4:30 or 5:30 in the morning, still dark outside, we're taping names to seats. The gates . . . started opening and we're seeing hundreds of people running onto the mall. There were people on the other side of the Washington Monument as we're setting up. It was an overwhelming statement about what his election meant to so many people.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley announced his resignation from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and the board approached me and asked me to become president and chief executive officer. IFES, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides support for elections and promotes democracy. Our projects can be seen in nations across the globe, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Indonesia.

-- Charity Brown

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