2023 Public Official: LT. Governor Eleni Kounalakis



Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis was sworn in as the 50th Lieutenant Governor of California by Governor Gavin Newsom on January 7th, 2019. She is the first woman elected Lt. Governor of California. A native Californian, she visited each of the state’s 58 counties during her historic campaign. In addition to her duties as Lt. Governor, Kounalakis is California’s Representative for International Affairs and Trade, appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom by executive order.

From 2010 to 2013, Kounalakis served as President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary. Kounalakis was the first Greek-American woman – and at age 43 one of America’s youngest – to serve as U.S. Ambassador. Her highly acclaimed memoir, “Madam Ambassador, Three Years of Diplomacy, Dinner Parties and Democracy in Budapest” (The New Press, 2015), chronicles the onset of Hungary’s democratic backsliding.

Governor Jerry Brown appointed Kounalakis to chair the California Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment in 2014. Kounalakis was a Virtual Fellow at the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) between 2014 and 2017, specializing in international trade and immigration. She is currently a director of the Association of American Ambassadors and a National Democratic Institute (NDI) “Ambassadors Circle” advisor.

Prior to her public service, Kounalakis was president of one of California’s most respected housing development firms, AKT Development, where she worked for 18 years. She built master-planned communities and delivered quality housing to the Sacramento region’s working families – recognizing her as one of the capital region’s most prominent businesswomen. Passionate about early childhood development, Kounalakis served as a member of California’s First 5 Commission and the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.

Eleni Kounalakis graduated from Dartmouth College in 1989 and earned her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from U.C. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in 1992. She holds an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the American College of Greece. She is married to Dr. Markos Kounalakis and the couple has two teenage sons, Neo and Eon.


As the Lieutenant Governor, Kounalakis has the unique vantage point of serving on the governing boards of all three public higher education segments in the state in addition to chairing the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors. As a trustee and member of these boards, she has championed priorities around increasing accessibility, diversity, equality, and inclusion across the state’s higher education system. As a staunch advocate for DE&I in higher education, her work has resulted in greater accessibility and diversity in admissions at UC, CSU, and Community Colleges, as well as the workforce at the institutions.

By visiting all of California’s 58 counties, she has seen firsthand the state’s diversity and the need to support and keep in the forefront the importance of DE&I in government, corporate, America, and economic development.

As Chair of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, she extended her advocacy for DE&I in California’s Economy and economic strategies.


The Lt. Governors’s impact is the entire population of the Stae of California. Her commitment to DE&I has not only been a commitment to the present but to future generations as well.

She has been committed to moving California toward a better, stronger future. She understands that California’s values and diversity underpin and drive our economy forward, and truly make California great. We must continue pursuing policies that grow our economy while ensuring it works better for everyone.


Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis has utilized her political and business positions to advocate for DE&I in her work. By meeting with the citizens of California’s diverse communities, she better understands the importance of DE&I in creating a better and stronger California. While in office, she has visited all 58 counties in California, giving her a better perspective of California’s diverse communities and their local impact.

No Lt. Governor in California’s modern history has been as engaged with California’s diverse communities as Lt. Governor Kounalakis. She used a hands-on approach and engaged our diverse communities through social media.


Lt. Governor Kounalakis has made it a policy priority to develop a diverse and inclusive Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum that will serve as a model for the entire state. She continuously prioritized promoting diversity and inclusion as a statewide elected constitutional officer. She believes it is critical that California students are educated about our State’s rich history and diversity.

Her work in DE&I in economic development has provided diverse small businesses in California with more resources and technical assistance. As California’s International Trade Representative, she has advocated for including California’s diverse businesses in international trade activities and opportunities.


Lt. Governor Kounalakis has visited all 58 California counties at least once. She has actively engaged the African American Community, Asian Community, Hispanic Community, and other ethnic communities in California. Her engagement with the ethnic communities spans statewide. Additionally, she has been engaged with women and LGBTQ communities.

Leadership Capacity

Lt. Governor Kounalakis, is serving her second four-year term as Lt. Governor. She has officially announced that she will seek to become Governor in 2026.