Duluth native takes key D.C. post

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a money question -- or an issue with U.S. interests in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan -- she'll probably turn to a Duluth native for help.

Nides and Mondale, 1979
Then-Duluth East senior Thomas Nides (left) joins then-Vice President Walter Mondale at the podium during high school graduation at the Duluth Arena on June 7, 1979. Nides, who helped arrange Mondale's appearance at the graduation ceremony, has joined the U.S. State Department as deputy U.S. secretary of state for management and resources. (1979 file / News Tribune)

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a money question -- or an issue with U.S. interests in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan -- she'll probably turn to a Duluth native for help.

Thomas Nides, a 1979 Duluth East graduate, was sworn in Monday as deputy U.S. secretary of state for management and resources, considered the No. 2 job at the State Department.

"A great opportunity opened for me and the timing was right. ... I've known and admired Secretary Clinton for a long time, so it worked out," Nides told the News Tribune on Tuesday.

Northland residents may remember Nides from News Tribune stories published when he served as campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in 2000. Lieberman ran for vice president with Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore.

Since then, Nides has climbed to the top on Wall Street, leaving a $3 million-a-year position as chief operating officer at financial giant Morgan Stanley to take the State Department job. His new post pays $179,700.


"I've been very lucky, very fortunate to have spent time on Capitol Hill and then to move over to Wall Street and have pretty good success there. ... But I thought it was time to give back, to put my money where my mouth is," Nides said from his State Department office next door to Clinton's.

Nides, 49, described his new job as chief operating officer of the State Department, overseeing daily operations of the huge wing of the federal government, especially management of personnel and budget. But he also will be Clinton's liaison to Congress, where Northlanders may see him testifying on C-Span on Obama administration policy in Afghanistan and other hotspots.

Nides replaces Jacob Lew, who was tapped last month to run the White House Office of Management and Budget. Nides had worked in the Clinton administration under Trade Representative Mickey Kantor in the 1990s and maintained strong Democratic connections. He said those relationships, coupled with his experience at "managing large, complex organizations" on Wall Street, probably led to the phone call from Clinton's office asking for his service.

"Yes, you can be pro-business and be a Democrat," Nides said with a laugh. "But I wanted to get back into public service. ... The country is facing some very difficult times now and I think everyone who wants to help, whether Republican or Democrat, ought to pitch in rather than complain."

Nides and his wife, Virginia Moseley, a producer at ABC News, have a 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter.

Nides is the son of Duluthians Arnold Nides, who died in 2004, and Shirley Nides, who died in 1999. His sister, Jane Nides, lives in Minneapolis. She said her brother has uncanny business acumen but also is committed to seeing government run well.

"We grew up taught to do good for people," she said. "Instead of trick-or-treating for candy on Halloween, our parents made us collect for UNICEF."

She said her brother and father were very close, noting that Arnold was best man in Tom's wedding.


"He was the youngest of eight children and, when Tommy was very young, my dad lost everything and had to go back on the road selling," Jane Nides said. "Tommy would go along on many of those trips and I think he just absorbed everything he could about business and finance. ... Tommy went to him for advice all through the years."

Arnold Nides founded a national consumer finance agency, and for the last three decades of his 90 years worked as a financial adviser for American Express. Shirley Nides was a teacher for 25 years and was active in the community.

Tommy Nides first dabbled in politics in 1979 when, as a high school senior, he convinced then-Vice President Walter Mondale to speak at East's graduation. Nides had help from two East alumni working in the Mondale administration -- Mondale's chief counsel, Michael Berman, and office manager Richard Moe.

Mondale talked to the grads about nuclear weapons treaties and later told Nides to go to law school if he wanted a career in politics. Nides didn't go to law school, but he still managed the career in politics. And then some.

Last summer, Nides was the keynote speaker at the Kitchi Gammi Club in Duluth when Berman was given an honorary degree from UMD. Mondale also was at the event.

The former vice president said Nides was a perfect pick for the post. On Tuesday Mondale recalled having both Nides and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar on his staff in the 1980s, saying that both were quick studies.

"He doesn't miss. He's an excellent choice for the job," Mondale said Tuesday from his Minneapolis law office. "It's nice to know a kid from Minnesota will be running the place. In many ways, that is about the most important position in the State Department, both on global issues and management and budget.''

Nides majored in political science at the University of Minnesota. After graduating, he worked on Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign. He went on to work for Congress members including Rep. Tony Coelho, D-Calif., and then-Speaker of the House Thomas Foley before going to the Trade Office.


Nides left the Clinton administration in 1997 for jobs in New York investment banks.

Before joining Morgan Stanley, Nides was worldwide president and chief administrative officer of Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations company, and chief administrative officer and member of the executive board of Credit Suisse First Boston. He also was a senior vice president and member of the operating committee at Fannie Mae.

Morgan Stanley received $10 billion in U.S. taxpayer bailout funds during the financial crisis but paid it all back last year. According to campaign contribution disclosure data, Nides personally contributed thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns, including Obama's and Clinton's.

According to the State Department, Nides also will help oversee "overall direction, coordination and supervision of operational programs, including foreign aid and civilian response programs."

In addition, Nides' position advises the secretary of state on the department's participation in the National Economic Council and interagency economic policy matters.

Nides was nominated by Obama in September and quietly confirmed by the Senate Dec. 23, drawing support from Democrats and Republicans.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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