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Hinton native confirmed as U.S. budget director

By Staff reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hinton native Sylvia Mathews Burwell was overwhelmingly confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as the new director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Burwell, who was nominated by President Obama in early March, was confirmed on a 96-0 vote.

Burwell served as the OMB's deputy director and as chief of staff to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin during the Clinton administration. She was running the Walmart Foundation, the retail giant's nonprofit wing, when nominated for the OMB post.

"Sylvia shares my commitment to growing our economy, shrinking our deficits in a balanced way, and reigniting a rising, thriving middle class," Obama said in a statement after Wednesday's vote. "Sylvia will be a key member of my economic team, and I look forward to working with her in the years ahead."

Burwell's mother, Cleo Mathews, is a former mayor of Hinton and member of the state Board of Education.

"My husband Bill and I have always been incredibly proud of both of our daughters and their commitment to public service. Sylvia's unanimous confirmation today as director of OMB is a great honor, and she has an unparalleled opportunity to serve a key role in the continued fiscal recovery of our nation," Matthews said in a statement Wednesday evening.

"As first-generation Greek immigrants, we always emphasized the value of hard work and the importance of family, both of which Sylvia took to heart. Her family, lifelong friends and our close community of Hinton, West Virginia, have provided her with the strength and moral grounding to serve our country ably and honorably. All will continue to be sources of support and key factors in her success in this position of great responsibility."

Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., congratulated Burwell after her confirmation.

"As Congress works to put our country on course for a strong economic future, I am so pleased that Sylvia Mathews Burwell will have a prominent seat at the table as director of OMB, helping to steer our budget and economic policy in the right direction," Rockefeller said in a statement.

The OMB director "assists the president in overseeing the preparation of the federal budget and in supervising its administration in federal agencies," according to the White House website.

OMB "oversees and coordinates the administration's procurement, financial management, information and regulatory policies," according to the website.

Rockefeller said, "I have been privileged to know Sylvia and her family as personal friends for many years and have always proudly supported her career in public service -- from Hinton, West Virginia all the way to the White House as a top staff member of the Clinton administration.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Manchin said, "If you want to know Sylvia, you should look at her small hometown of Hinton and the surrounding Summers County, because that is her grounding. It is pure Americana -- a onetime railroad boomtown woven into the mountains of Appalachia."

Burwell served as OMB's deputy director and chief of staff to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin during Bill Clinton's presidency. In his statement, Obama noted that Mathews was "part of an OMB team that presided over three budget surpluses in a row."

"Her experience will be especially important as we continue our efforts to replace the indiscriminate budget cuts that are already starting to cost jobs, hurt families, and inconvenience Americans," the president said.

Between 2001 and 2012, Burwell was CEO and executive director of the Gates Foundation, then served as president of the Gates Foundation Global Development Program. That foundation spends $725 million a year to improve the lives of more than 200 million people around the world.

When she got her new post, Burwell was heading the Walmart Foundation, the nonprofit wing of the retail giant.

"Sylvia's abundant knowledge and budget experience make her the right person to take on our country's fiscal challenges," Rockefeller said.

"In addition to her impressive experience, she is humble -- sticking to her West Virginia roots -- and dedicated to helping those in most need."

Manchin said, "Sylvia is humble, hard-working and has spent most of her life helping hard working families everywhere achieve the American dream her Greek immigrant grandparents found in this country.

"She went off to Harvard, was a Rhodes Scholar and has traveled the world over. But she has never lost touch with her West Virginia roots and the ties that bind us together."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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