Anne Wexler passed away peacefully at her Washington, D.C. home on Friday, Aug. 7.
As stated in a New York Times obituary; she “did about everything in politics including run for office – from licking envelopes to running Democratic campaigns to serving as a top aide in the Carter White House before becoming an influential Washington lobbyist.” Her career spanned more than four decades and was considered by many to be a pioneer and mentor.
Anne first visited Sanibel in the early 1960’s when her parents, Leon and Edith Levy, moved here. Leon a prominent New York Architect who designed the New York Coliseum, retired to Sanibel in 1962, became an artist and opened an art gallery behind the Sea Horse Shops. Edith who passed away in 2007 was for many years a volunteer at the Sanibel Library. After years of annual visits, Anne built her own house here in 2008.
Anne Wexler broke the glass ceiling of the lobbying world when she founded the firm of Wexler & Associates, in 1981. This launched her successful and distinguished private sector career as one of the most influential consultants in the business. She was named among the 10 most powerful lobbyists by Washingtonian magazine, which noted: “She is easily the most influential female lobbyist in a world still dominated by men.”
Prior to entering the private sector, Wexler served four years in the Carter Administration as Assistant to the President for Public Liaison and as Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce, where she was Chair of the President’s Task Force on Women Business Owners. She served as the senior advisor to the first woman Vice Presidential nominee, Geraldine Ferraro, in 1984.
While managing her now husband Joe Duffey’s anti-Vietnam War Democratic U.S. Senate campaign in Connecticut in 1970, she enlisted the support of two volunteers, Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham, both Yale Law students. Secretary of State Clinton, during her own presidential campaign, would often introduce Wexler as the woman who “gave her her first job in politics.” Wexler served as a senior advisor on the Clinton/Gore transition team and as an informal advisor to President Clinton throughout his two terms in office.
Of her death, the firms Executive Chairman former Congresman Bob Walker said; “It is a sad day for all of us who had the good fortune to know and work with Anne,” she was a tireless public servant, a role model for so many, and a dedicated advocate on numerous important issues of our time. Anne will be greatly missed by her colleagues, who will continue to build upon her legacy into the future. Her mark on the industry is, and will remain, indelible.”
“Anne Wexler and I had the shared experience of breaking many of the great barriers of our generation,” said Norm Mineta, former Member of Congress, Secretary of Commerce under Bill Clinton, Secretary of Transportation under George W. Bush, and current Vice Chairman of Hill & Knowlton, parent company of Wexler & Walker. “She was a tireless worker, helping to ensure that all had both the opportunity and the tools necessary to fulfill their personal and professional dreams.”
Among her other honors, in 2002 Wexler received the Order of Australia in recognition of her distinguished work on strengthening relations between the U.S. and Australia, an award rarely bestowed on non-Australians. She also served as the Chairman of the Board of WETA and on the boards of several corporations including The Alumax Corporation, The Comcast Corporation, The Dreyfus Family of Funds, The New England Electric System, and The NOVA Corporation. She was also a member of The Council on Foreign Relations and was a trustee for The National Park Foundation and the Economic Club of Washington.
Wexler earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Skidmore College. She was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from Skidmore and an Honorary Doctor of Science degree in Business Administration from Bryant College.
She is survived by her husband, Joseph Duffey, and their sons, Daniel and David Wexler, Michael and David Duffey, and their families. Daniel, his wife Arlene and daughters Casey and Rachel became full-time Sanibel residents in 2005. A memorial service will be held at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 20, 2009.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Sanibel School Fund, 3840 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel, FL 33957 or the PURRE Water Coalition, 2340 Periwinkle Way, Unit J2, Sanibel, FL 33957.