Nell Payne was the Smithsonian’s director of government relations between 2000 and 2016. She was responsible for maintaining the Smithsonian's relationships with Congress, the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and with government officials.
Payne was able, in part, to be so effective in her role, because she had years of experience working in and alongside government officials. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she served as the chief counsel for the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, 1982–87; director of government affairs for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 1987–90; special assistant to the President, Legislative Affairs, 1990–91; and corporate relations manager for American University of Paris, 1994–2000.
Payne earned her J.D. from the George Washington University in 1982 and her bachelor’s degree in French and literature from the University of Iowa in 1978.