U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein
Donald S. Beyer Jr. was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein on August 5, 2009. He took up his duties in Bern on August 15, 2009.
Ambassador Beyer is a nationally recognized political, business and philanthropic leader. Over the last thirty years, he built a strong reputation in Virginia, where he grew a successful and reputable business, and spent eight years as Lieutenant Governor. Throughout his adult life, Ambassador Beyer has been very active in Virginia and national politics. In 2008, he chaired the Transportation and Land Use working group of the Governor’s Virginia Commission on Climate Change. Before his nomination to be Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, he was asked by President-elect Barack Obama to lead the United States Department of Commerce Transition Team.
Ambassador Beyer was elected Lieutenant Governor and President of the Senate of Virginia in 1989, on the same ballot as Governor Douglas Wilder. In 1993, he was re-elected, this time to serve with Governor George Allen. In his years in office, Mr. Beyer pioneered many policy and legislative initiatives. He became the first champion for Virginians with physical and sensory disabilities, chairing a disabilities commission for eight years that has become a central responsibility of subsequent lieutenant governors.
Mr. Beyer also led the Virginia Economic Recovery Commission in 1991-1992, which led to the passage of permanent pro-business reforms, including widespread broadband access, extended economic certainty in land use planning, and the promotion of credit card center locations. He spent two years holding hearings and developing legislative reforms to address the tragic problem of child sexual assault, which resulted in Virginia’s two-strikes-and-you’re-out child molestation law and a Constitutional amendment to extend the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against children.
In 1994-1995, Mr. Beyer chaired Virginia’s Poverty and Welfare Reform Commission, which developed and passed the state’s landmark welfare reform legislation, a model for later federal reforms and for those in many other states. In 1997, Mr. Beyer was the Democratic nominee for Governor, a race he lost over the debate on eliminating Virginia’s personal property tax on cars.
In addition to his political career, Ambassador Beyer is recognized as a leader in business. He built a profitable and community-based collection of retail automobile dealerships, representing eight franchises and four manufacturers: Volvo, Land Rover, Subaru, and Kia. The Beyer business brand is one of the best-known retail automobile names in the nation, and Mr. Beyer has served at the highest levels in the industry, including as Chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, and Chairman of the National Volvo Dealer Council. His businesses have won national awards.
Ambassador Beyer has long believed that business leaders have a responsibility to give back to their communities, and he has spent countless hours in the service of others. Since 1995 he has chaired Jobs for Virginia Graduates, the largest and most successful high school dropout prevention program in the state. He is the founding Chairman of the Alexandria Community Trust, Alexandria’s community foundation. For three years, from 2000-2002, Mr. Beyer was President of Youth for Tomorrow, the home for troubled adolescents founded by former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. He has served as a member of the board of the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and has served on many other local and community boards.
Ambassador Beyer is a magna cum laude graduate of Williams College, where he received a Bachelor of Arts with Highest Honors in Economics, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. President Lyndon Johnson named him a Presidential Scholar in 1968, the same year he was Salutatorian of Gonzaga College High School.
Ambassador Beyer and Megan Carroll Beyer married in 1987; they have four children. He is the son of a West Point graduate and career Army officer and the oldest of six children.