Lieutenant Governor, State of California
Eleni Kounalakis was sworn in as the 50th lieutenant governor of California by Governor Gavin Newsom on January 7, 2019. She is the first woman to be elected to the post. A native Californian, she visited each of the state’s 58 counties during her historic campaign.
From 2010 to 2013, she served as ambassador to the Republic of Hungary. Appointed by President Barack Obama, she 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,” published in 2015 by The New Press, 2015, chronicles the onset of Hungary’s democratic backsliding.
Ambassador Kounalakis was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown as chair of the California Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment in 2014. She was a virtual fellow at the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research between 2014 and 2017, specializing in international trade and immigration. She is currently a director of the Council of American Ambassadors and an Ambassadors Circle advisor of the National Democratic Institute.
Prior to entering public service, Ambassador Kounalakis was president of one of California’s most respected housing development firms, AKT Development Corporation, where she worked for 18 years. She built master-planned communities and delivered quality housing to the Sacramento region’s working families, becoming one of the capital region’s most prominent businesswomen. Passionate about early childhood development, she previously served as a member of California’s First 5 Commission, as well as the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.
Ambassador Kounalakis graduated from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire in 1989, and earned her M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at Berkeley in 1992. She holds an honorary doctorate of laws from the American College of Greece. She lives with her husband and two teenage sons in San Francisco.