Donna previously held the position of Senior Assistant to Deputy White House Chief of Staff Josh Lyman and worked on both the Russell and Santos presidential campaigns in 2006 as well as Bartlet's election campaign in 1998.
Donna was born in Warroad, Minnesota, only to find out toward the end of President Bartlet's first term that her hometown had retroactively been repositioned into Canada, thus stripping her of her United States citizenship. Her status as a U.S. citizen was restored thanks to a "grandfather clause" in the law. Her family later moved to Wisconsin, where Donna was raised. In the episode It's Surely To Their Credit, Josh has Donna's birthday on his blackboard, which makes her birthday sometime in the fall (going by the date the episode aired, sometime around the beginning of November). She joined the Bartlet campaign after breaking up with her boyfriend, only to leave to rekindle their relationship. It did not last, and Donna returned to work under Josh Lyman.
Donna spent nearly six years as the primary assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman. She was among numerous White House staffers to receive a subpoena during the House of Representatives investigation into the concealment of President Bartlet's multiple sclerosis. Around that time she met and dated Republican House Minority Counsel Cliff Calley. While testifying, Donna stated she did not keep a diary, which Cliff knew not to be true, having seen it in her bedroom the previous night. Josh worked with Cliff to ensure Donna's transgression, which she said was an honest mistake, did not result in a perjury case.
As the second Bartlet inauguration drew near, Donna told C.J. Cregg she had given a researcher with The Washington Post an inflammatory quote about tensions between civilian and military staffers at the White House. This angered Josh, Leo McGarry and other senior staff members, but Josh soon figured out Donna could not have known the information contained in the quote. He realized she was covering for Jack Reese, a Navy lieutenant commander whom she was dating at the time.
As the second Bartlet term progressed, Donna became restless with her position and asked Josh to expand her role. Josh sent her on a congressional delegation to the Gaza Strip, along with Congresswoman Andrea Wyatt and retired Admiral Percy Fitzwallace. She sent frequent emails to Josh during the trip and had a flirtation with an Irish photojournalist. A series of vehicles carrying the American delegation were hit by a roadside bomb. Fitzwallace and several others were killed, and Donna was critically wounded. She was medevaced to Germany to receive emergency surgery for a collapsed lung, broken leg and other injuries. Josh flew to Germany to be by her side.
After returning to work at the White House, Donna again felt limited by her work responsibilities and eventually resigned to work as senior aide to Will Bailey, Vice President Bob Russell's campaign manager for the 2006 presidential election. Her new position placed her in direct conflict with Josh, who resigned his own White House position to run the Matt Santos campaign. After Santos won the Democratic nomination, Donna applied to work for Josh at the Santos campaign. Josh said "no", on the grounds that Donna had spent months making personal attacks on Santos while working for the Russell campaign. She was later hired by Communications Director Louise "Lou" Thornton as a campaign spokesperson. Lou then forced Josh to reconcile with Donna. In the days leading up to the general election, Josh and Donna finally gave in to years of unrequited romantic feelings between them. When the stress of the transition overwhelmed Josh, he was given an ultimatum by Sam Seaborn to take a vacation or Sam wouldn't join as Deputy Chief of Staff, and Josh took Donna with him.
Donna was appointed Chief of Staff to First Lady Helen Santos.
Donna, like Margaret Hooper, often presented as slightly ditzy, but the efficiency with which they kept their respective bosses on schedule belies that image. She usually took the 'common man' position as opposed to Josh's Ivy League, governmental perspective, but paid attention to the vast flow of information around her, and frequently changed her stance based on solid evidence and strong arguments presented. She was intuitive, not merely with regard to Josh and his needs (as seen, for example, in Noël) but about many people she encountered, relating to the folks of Hartsfield's Landing in a way no one else in the White House could, and being the one to spot Senator Howard Stackhouse's missing grandson and deduce what it might mean (The Stackhouse Filibuster). Donna's composed demeanor and ability to retain information made her an invaluable asset to the Bartlet Administration, and later in the administration was courted to work in the private sector. When she explained that she felt unqualified due to never finishing her undergraduate education, she was told that "working for Josh Lyman is better than a Master's degree."
- University of Wisconsin-Madison (dropped out after two years to work full-time and support her boyfriend who was a med-student)
- 1998 : Campaign Aide to Political Director Josh Lyman for the "Bartlet for America" presidential campaign
- 1999-2005 : Senior Assistant to the Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Strategic Planning
- 2005-2006 : Campaign Aide to Campaign Manager Will Bailey for the "Bob Russell for America" presidential campaign
- 2006 : Press Secretary for the "Bob Russell for America" presidential campaign
- 2006 : Press Secretary for the "Santos/McGarry for a Brighter America" presidential campaign
- 2007-present : Chief of Staff to the First Lady of the United States
Behind the scenes Edit
- Donna was often the PoV character for the audience, the one posing questions to, or listening to explanations from, Josh as regarded the issues of the episode.
|Senior Assistant to the Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Strategic Planning|
Marla Whorisky (temp)
|Chief of Staff to the First Lady of the United States|