TheGrio's 100: Cheryl Mills, leading the charge from the White House to the State Department

theGRIOs 100 - Cheryl Mills is currently the counselor and chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

The name Cheryl Mills may sound familiar to you. It was repeated heavily in 1999 when Mills was on the legal team that successfully defended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. While her arguments during the trial put her in the national spotlight, Mills has had a significant behind-the-scenes role in politics before and after the trial. Currently, Mills is the counselor and chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Mills was the daughter of an Army lieutenant colonel living in Germany, Belgium and the U.S. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Virginia and went on to earn her law degree at Stanford University. After working for a Washington, D.C. law firm, Mills left to work as deputy general counsel for the Clinton/Gore Transition Planning Foundation after the 1992 presidential election. She continued working in the White House, including as the deputy counsel to the president, until the end of Clinton’s impeachment trial.

After a few years of not working along the Clinton family, in 2007 Hillary Clinton asked Mills to serve as general counsel for Clinton’s presidential campaign. Once Clinton was appointed as Secretary of State she asked Mills to follow her to the State Department, where she currently works today.

Cheryl Mills is making history as… one of the most critical senior staff members to one of the most influential presidential couples in recent times. In addition to her senior roles with the Clintons, Mills has worked as the senior vice president at New York University and Oxygen Media.

What’s next for Cheryl?

Mills continues to remain a loyal and trusted advisor to Hillary Clinton in her role at the State Department. Mills’ captivating defense of Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial caught national attention. In her current position, Mills serves as a special advisor on major policy challenges, including leading the department’s diplomacy and development efforts in Haiti.

A little-known fact about Mills

In 1999, Mills turned down President Clinton’s offer of serving as counsel to the president, ending up at Oxygen Media. She would have been the first female and first African- American in the position, according to the New York Times.


Q: What’s next in this chapter of your life?

A: Right now I’m focused on doing the best job I can to support the
Administration’s foreign policy objectives. Given all that is happening in
the world it’s hard to see beyond my time in the Department. I am
certainly looking forward to more time for family, friends and free time in the next chapter.

Q: What’s a fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: That since 2005, my most important job is to be a good a mother to my 6 year-old children — and that I am a vociferous consumer of People Magazine.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: I have two:

1. It’s the Lioness that hunts — Anonymous

2. First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak out because I was Protestant.Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.- Pastor Martin Niemöller

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?

A: From my parents who taught me that if I do not personally do my best to make things better, they may not get better. I am the beneficiary of a people who claimed the privileges and opportunities I have today for me — I owe the next generation no less.

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: I have been blessed with countless mentors — my parents, my life partner (David Domenici); my friends like Tony Welters, my teachers, like Barbara Babcock (Stanford Law); and my supervisors like David Tatel (DC Circuit Court of Appeals) — they have all taught me the value of having a champion — and of being one for others and for causes in which you believe deeply.

**Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to achieve their

A: Something my late Aunt Cassie used to say, “If it can be done, why not by you?”