Eleni Kounalakis

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Eleni Kounalakis
Kounalakis in 2021
50th Lieutenant Governor of California
Assumed office
January 7, 2019
Governor Gavin Newsom
Preceded byGavin Newsom
United States Ambassador to Hungary
In office
January 11, 2010 – July 20, 2013
President Barack Obama
Preceded by April H. Foley
Succeeded by Colleen Bell
Personal details
Eleni Tsakopoulos

(1966-03-03) March 3, 1966 (age 56)
Sacramento, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
( m. 2000)
Relatives Angelo Tsakopoulos (father)
George Tsakopoulos (uncle)
George Demos (brother-in-law)
Education Dartmouth College ( BA)
University of California, Berkeley ( MBA)
Website Government website

Eleni Kounalakis (née Tsakopoulos; born March 3, 1966) is an American politician, businesswoman, and former diplomat serving since 2019 as the 50th lieutenant governor of California. A member of the Democratic Party, she is the first woman elected to the office. [a]

Kounalakis previously served as the United States Ambassador to Hungary from 2010 to 2013. She was sworn into office on January 7, 2010, and presented her credentials to President László Sólyom on January 11, 2010. On April 24, 2017, Kounalakis announced her bid for the office of Lieutenant Governor of California in the 2018 election. She came in first place in the June 5, 2018 primary election; [1] she was elected on November 6, 2018. [2]


Private career

Before accepting President Barack Obama's nomination to an ambassadorship, [3] Kounalakis was President of AKT Development Corporation, one of California's largest housing development firms, which was founded by her father. [4] Kounalakis earned her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and a Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business. [5]

Kounalakis and her husband, print and broadcast journalist Markos Kounalakis, founded two university chairs in Hellenic studies, the Markos and Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis chair at Georgetown University, [6] held by the scholar of late Classical and early Hellenistic Greek literature, Dr. Alexander Sens, and the Tsakopoulos Kounalakis chair in honor of Constantine Mitsotakis at Stanford University, held by Josiah Ober. Both chairs focus on the understanding of the origins of Athenian democracy. They also established the Tsakopoulos Kounalakis lecture series at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to focus on democracy and international relations. [7]

Kounalakis served for nearly ten years as a Trustee of the World Council of Religions for Peace. In recognition for her work with the WCRP, she was awarded the medal of St. Paul, the Greek Orthodox Church of America’s highest honor. [8] San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed her to serve as a Trustee of the War Memorial and Performing Arts Center. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appointed her to serve on the Port Commission Board. [9]

Political career

She served four times as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and as an at-large member of the California State Democratic Central Committee. She also served as a member of the First 5 California Commission, and the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism. [10] She served as a Trustee of Robert Redford's Sundance Preserve[ citation needed] and on the Conservation Fund’s National Forum on Children and Nature. She is also a senior advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group. [11]

On April 24, 2017, Kounalakis announced her bid for the office of Lieutenant Governor of California in the 2018 election. She came in first place on June 5, 2018 in the top-two statewide primary; Democratic State Senator Ed Hernandez placed second. [12] On November 6, Kounalakis was elected by a 56.6% to 43.3% margin against her opponent. [13] Kounalakis, along with then Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, took office on January 7, 2019. [14]

After her candidacy announcement, she visited all 58 counties in California during her campaign. Her grassroots campaign earned the recognition of Time magazine [15] for engaging hundreds of volunteers to text over 1 million voters before Election Day. On November 6, 2018, Kounalakis became the first female elected Lieutenant Governor of California in history; Mona Pasquil was appointed in an acting capacity in 2009 following the resignation of John Garamendi but was not elected to the post. [16]

Personal life

Kounalakis and Markos married in 2000. [17] They have two sons. [18] She is the daughter of Angelo Tsakopoulos, a Sacramento developer. [19] Kounalakis is of Greek descent and grew up a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. [20] In 2011, she received an Honorary Doctor of Law from the American College of Greece. [21]


  1. ^ Mona Pasquil was the first woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor of California, but had been appointed.


  1. ^ "Kounalakis, Hernandez finish top two in tight CA lieutenant governor race". June 6, 2018.
  2. ^ "Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis - People - Department History - Office of the Historian". history.state.gov.
  3. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". whitehouse.gov – via National Archives.
  4. ^ "Land Developer to U.S. Ambassador". Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  5. ^ "Berkeley-Haas - The Magazine of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley". www.haas.berkeley.edu.
  6. ^ "Georgetown University Receives $1.2 Million Gift for Hellenic Studies Chair". Archived from the original on March 16, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2012.
  7. ^ "Southeast Europe Project Announces Scholars". Wilson Center. The project features the Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Lecture Series as a forum for world leaders and distinguished scholars who study, understand, and manifest democracy and reason as classical Hellenism's vital contributions to contemporary statecraft and society.
  8. ^ "Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis Receives Greek Orthodox Church of America's Highest Honor". PSEKA.
  9. ^ Mayor Ed Lee's Port Commission picks sails through board committee, sfexaminer.com.
  10. ^ "Appointed Members of the Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism". Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  11. ^ "Eleni Tsakopoulos, Albright Stonebridge Group".
  12. ^ Gregory, Madeleine; Cannestra, Sakura (June 6, 2018). "Eleni Kounalakis and Ed Hernandez advance to general election for lieutenant governor". The Daily Californian.
  13. ^ says, Ken Palosi (November 7, 2018). "Eleni Kounalakis Wins California's Lieutenant Governor's Race".
  14. ^ Skelton, George (November 12, 2018). "Eleni Kounalakis can carve out a meaningful role as lieutenant governor. It's in her genes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  15. ^ "Why Politicians Are Texting You So Much — And It's Only the Beginning". Time.
  16. ^ "2018 California General Election Results". Election Results.
  17. ^ Brinkerhoff, Noel. "Ambassador to Hungary: Who is Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis?". AllGov. AllGov. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  18. ^ "Meet Eleni". Eleni Kounalakis for California Lt. Governor.
  19. ^ Luna, Taryn (June 3, 2018). "Candidate, her father have spent millions to elect her California's lieutenant governor". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  20. ^ "Say hello to Eleni Kounalakis". Capitol Weekly. November 27, 2018. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  21. ^ "American College of Greece Commencement". DEREE.

External links

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Hungary
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of California