David Wilhelm

A former campaign operative who rose to prominence as chair of the Democratic National Committee in the 1990s, today Wilhelm is an entrepreneur and impact investor devoted to building sustainable jobs and wealth in small town America.

Wilhelm is the founder of two regionally-focused venture capital funds (Adena Ventures and Hopewell Ventures) designed to invest in businesses with high growth potential in the central Appalachian and Great Lakes areas of the United States. Wilhelm recently launched a new business, Turning Point Power, which is dedicated to developing clean energy projects in the same region of the country; its first effort is a 50mw solar array, which will be constructed on reclaimed mine land in southeastern Ohio beginning in 2012, one of the largest solar projects ever built in the eastern United States.

On the economic development front, Wilhelm is a founder of a newly-created Ohio Appalachian Business Council and in 2010 served as co-chair of a successful statewide campaign in support of the Ohio Third Frontier. He is co-chair of the advisory council for the Voinovich School for Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University, a board member of the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds and Jump Start, and a director of two privately held companies, iTRACS and DFW Furniture. Before transitioning to this private sector work about a decade ago, Wilhelm had established a reputation as a leading manager of political campaigns, working for candidates such as Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Richard Daley, and the late Paul Simon. Wilhelm ran the day-to-day operations of the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, directed its Electoral College and political strategy, and spearheaded the post-convention bus tour of the American heartland.

Upon his election in 1992, President Clinton nominated Wilhelm to serve as Chair of the Democratic National Committee, making Wilhelm the youngest person to ever serve in that role in either political party. Wilhelm’s tenure in the position was a rocky one. While Chair, Wilhelm emphasized the importance of grassroots party activists and elevated the role of state and local elected officials within the national party, he reinstituted an advisory council of representatives from organized labor, and worked to reach out to evangelical Christian voters, famously appearing before a convention of the Christian Coalition to a chorus of boos. Under Wilhelm’s leadership, the DNC played a meaningful role in support of President Clinton’s first budget proposal, which passed a Democratically-controlled House of Representatives by a single vote. But these organizational efforts were overwhelmed by Clinton era controversies related to NAFTA, health care, and Congressional nervousness about the 1994 midterm elections, his youthfulness worked against him in public appearances, and sensing a lack of White House support, in the summer of 1994, Wilhelm announced his intent to leave the DNC post upon the completion of the campaign season.

Wilhelm has taught extensively in the years since leaving Washington, D.C., currently serving as a Visiting Professor at Ohio University, building upon experiences as a Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, and lecturing positions at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and the University of Akron. He has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio University and a Master of Public Policy degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Ohio University, Wheeling Jesuit University, and the University of Charleston.

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