Clyde Williams and Mona Sutphen

Clyde Williams and Mona Sutphen

Meet the Harlem-based power couple who's love story began while planning peace in the Middle East

Clyde Williams and Mona Sutphen

The Williams-Sutphens in their Harlem home

Clyde Williams and Mona Sutphen are the epitome of a power couple.  The two met when they were both working in the Clinton Administration and both went on to enjoy prominent roles in the Obama Administration, with Mona serving as the country’s first African American female deputy chief of staff for policy and Clyde serving as the political director for the Democratic National Committee.

Though the duo now lives in New York City, they haven’t given up on politics just yet.  Mona is now the managing director of the Swiss bank UBS AG, covering geopolitical risk and macro-policy trends, while Clyde is running for Congress in New York’s newly-formed District 13 against 41-year-incumbent Congressman Charlie Rangel.   

But with all the commotion that comes along with heading an international bank and going into campaign season crunch-time -- the primary vote for Clyde is less than two months away on June 26 -- the playful and affectionate couple, who will celebrate eleven years of marriage this year, still find time to dote on their incredibly well-behaved children: seven-year-old daughter Sydney and four-year-old son Davis.

In a sit-down interview with EBONY in their classic Harlem home, Clyde and Mona shared their love story and a peek inside their family life.

EBONY: You first met at The White House while literally planning peace in the Middle East. For policy wonks and politicos, it doesn’t get any more romantic than that! Describe that first meeting.

CLYDE WILLIAMS: I can answer that one. We were in The Situation Room planning the Israeli-Palestinian summit and Mona’s boss, [then-National Security Advisor] Sandy Berger was sitting across the table from me and he was unhappy about something we scheduled for the summit. The meeting was well under-way when Mona walked into it and Sandy became like Charlie Brown’s teacher to me, all I heard was “wah wah wah!” And I'm like who is this woman? I had no idea who she was and I just wanted to know her.

MONA SUTPHEN: I had the same reaction.  I see this guy and I thought he was attractive, but I also thought I knew all of the Black people in the White House, so I’m just wondering, “who is this guy?” We didn't actually talk at that meeting, though. It wasn’t until two to three weeks later that we met officially at a mutual friend’s party.  

CW: But I don’t want to give off the impression that we have some kind of perfect relationship.

I have someone who has a vested interest in me and she makes me feel like I have no limitations

MS: Yeah, we broke up probably six times between then and when we got married [in 2001].

EBONY: Why was that? Were your busy schedules getting in the way?

CW: No, not that at all.  One of the greatest things about us both working in the same field and facing the same pressures is that we really understand each other’s lives and schedules. When you’ve got to be on call 24-7 or jumping out of bed because the President of the United States needs something done, you’ve got to be with someone who understands that.  So, it wasn’t our schedules, she just told me flat out, “I've got enough friends.”

EBONY: I know that’s right!

CW: [Laughs] What? You’re taking her side? OK!

MS: Well, he had just gotten out of a relationship when we met and he was dealing with that and other things. And we would break-up and get back together to the point where our friends wouldn’t even pay us any attention anymore. We’d say, “We broke up,” and they’d say, “Yeah, sure.” But we got married really quickly after we got engaged. We basically eloped, had only ten guests at our wedding and then had a big party for all of our friends later.

EBONY: So Clyde, when was the moment that you knew Mona was the one and you didn’t want to be just one of her friends anymore?

CW: There was never a time when I didn’t want to be with her. I've always felt like there was something different about Mona. She’s the smartest woman I've ever dated and she has my complete best interests at heart. She has always been an encouraging force in my life and anything I want to do, she’s like “You can do this; we can make this work.”  For so long, my mom was that person for me until she died, and having a partner who believes in you makes a profound difference. I have someone who has a vested interest in me and she makes me feel like I have no limitations. Again, I don't want to give off the impression that we have a perfect relationship in any way, but it's perfect for us.

MS: Absolutely. With us, it’s like you have this safety net there. Because I have him there supporting me, even if I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, I

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