Betsy Wright-Hawkings

Program Director, the Governance Initiative at the Democracy Fund

Betsy Wright-Hawkings
Betsy is the Program Director for the Governance Initiative at the Democracy Fund, a private foundation that fosters the highest ideals of the American republic – government of, by, and for the people. She leads the Democracy Fund’s grant making to organizations building bridges across the ideological divide and seeking out ways for our government to solve problems in the face of increased polarization. Current grantees of the Governance Program include the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program, and the Faith & Politics Institute.

Betsy brings more than 25 years of experience on Capitol Hill to the Democracy Fund. She worked for two decades for her hometown congressman, Christopher Shays of Connecticut, taking a leading role in helping Rep. Shays build bipartisan coalitions to balance the federal budget in 1995-96 and to establish the 9-11 Commission and implement its recommendations. She also supported the enactment of the Congressional Accountability Act, a provision of the 104th Congress’ “Contract with America,” which applied labor, civil rights, and workplace safety laws to Congress.

From 1996-98, Betsy was also Deputy Director of the Congressional Management Foundation, a non-partisan organization that works directly with Members and staff to enhance their operations and interactions with constituents. Betsy oversaw day-to-day operations of the Foundation and developed numerous guides and resources that provide Members with critical information, from how to establish and run Washington and district offices to best practices for setting strategic priorities over the course of a term.

Following Shays’ departure from Congress in 2008, Betsy left the Hill briefly to work for Amnesty International, where she was Managing Director of Government Relations and then Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy, Policy, and Research. She returned to Congress to lead the staffs of Congressmen Mike Turner and later Bobby Schilling of Illinois before signing on as Congressman Andy Barr’s chief of staff in 2012. In 2014, she was awarded the Cresswell Congressional Staff Leadership Award from the Stennis Center for Public Service.

Betsy is a graduate of Williams College, where she was named a Mead Scholar of American Studies, has attended courses at Harvard’s Kennedy School and is a founder of the Form of 1981 Memorial Fund at her alma mater, Groton School, to support student financial aid. She and her husband, David, live in Washington with their two sons.


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