Upated Feb. 18
Karen Mills, wife of President Barry Mills, announced this morning that she is stepping down as administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA).
“After four years as Administrator of the SBA, I have let President Obama know that I will not be staying for a second term. I will stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth and seamless transition,” Mills wrote in a message to SBA colleagues.
As SBA administrator, Mills worked to support small businesses and entrepreneurs nationwide. President Obama appointed Mills to the position in January 2009, and elevated her to the cabinet in January 2012. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Mills served as president of the MMP Group, a private equity firm based in Brunswick. She is also a founding partner of the private equity firm Solera Capital.
Mills is considered a potential candidate for Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial race, but said she had not yet considered a future political career.
“My first task is to fulfill my promise to the president to ensure an orderly transition here at the SBA,” Mills said yesterday. “I’m going to be staying on until my successor is confirmed by the Senate, and I have not yet begun the process of seriously considering future options.”
Mills promoted small business growth in Maine after the Naval Air Station in Brunswick closed in 2005. She said her work in the Brunswick area influenced her policymaking with the SBA.
“One of the things this president used to always tease me about is how much I talked about Maine and the values of Maine and the small businesses of Maine,” she said. “Every time I went home and walked down Maine Street in Brunswick I would get more insights and information from our small businesses.”
There was no teasing in President Obama’s statement on Mills’ decision, in which he thanked her for her four years service.
“I want to thank Administrator Mills for her outstanding work on behalf of America’s small business owners and entrepreneurs,” said the statement. “I asked Karen to lead the Small Business Administration because I knew she had the skills and experience to help America's small businesses recover from the worst economic crisis in generations—and that's exactly what she’s done.”
In her email to SBA staff, Mills emphasized the achievements of the administration over the course of her tenure, highlighting its success in securing billions of dollars in loans for small businesses.
“Over the last four years, SBA supported more than $106 billion in lending to more than 193,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Mills wrote. “This includes two record years of delivering over $30 billion annually in loan guarantees. And today we are using our streamlined lending programs and products to get capital to communities that are still struggling and to fill market gaps.”
Mills said that she thinks Maine can thrive in the coming years.
“We’ve got the entrepreneurs; we’ve got the small business owners; we’ve got the manufacturing heritage and, by the way, we’ve got the quality of place,” she said. “We have an absolutely spectacular and beautiful state with a great sense of community and we are attractive to these new investments in way that I think has not been true over the last couple of decades.”
Mills expressed gratitude for the dedication of her staff in her letter.
“I came to the SBA and Washington from the private sector and the great state of Maine. And on both a professional and a personal level this has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” she wrote.
“Karen has made it easier for small businesses to interact with the federal government by reducing paperwork and cutting through red tape,” President Obama said in his statement. “She has played a leading role in my Administration’s efforts to support start-ups and entrepreneurs. And she was instrumental in the passage of the Small Business Jobs Act. Because of Karen’s hard work and dedication, our small businesses are better positioned to create jobs and our entire economy is stronger. I want to thank Karen and am grateful for her service.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the agency Administrator Mills heads. It is the Small Business Administration, not the Small Business Association.