Lieut. Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis
Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis, a longtime member of Leadership 100, was designated by Governor Gavin Newsom as his top representative to advance California’s economic interests abroad.
The executive order signed by Newsom creates the International Affairs and Trade Development Interagency Committee under Lt. Governor Kounalakis, a former United States Ambassador, who will serve as Chair of the committee in her new role as the Governor’s International Affairs and Trade Development Representative.
Eleni Kounalakis was sworn into office as lieutenant governor of California in January, becoming the first woman ever elected to the post. Kounalakis worked as ambassador to Hungary under President Barack Obama. She decided last year to run for California’s second highest office.
“As the most diverse state in the nation and the 5th largest economy in the world, California’s leadership on trade, combating climate change, social justice issues and innovation has a global impact,” said Governor Newsom. “I cannot think of a better partner to strengthen our foreign relations and advance our interests abroad than Lt. Governor Kounalakis.”
“I am honored to work with Governor Newsom to amplify the voice of California on the world stage, and advance California’s interests and values internationally,” Lt. Governor Kounalakis said. “Our state’s leadership is needed now, more than ever, and sets a standard for democratic values, higher education, and economic innovation.”
“As a former U.S. Ambassador, I know firsthand what California means to the world. It’s more important now than ever for our state to take a prominent place on the world stage, bring focus to our international priorities and build partnerships across our borders,” Kounalakis wrote on Twitter.
Kounalakis is a first generation Greek-American. Her father, Angelo Tsakopoulos, a prominent and longtime member of Leadership 100, came to the United States from Greece at 14 years of age. He had little money, and no English-speaking skills, but went on to become a prominent Sacramento real estate developer.
California’s economy is larger than all but four nations, with a $2.7 trillion annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and is the second largest exporter by U.S. state, accounting for 11 percent of the nation’s overall exported products.
California is also home to more immigrants than any other state. Immigrants make up 27 percent of the state’s population – about twice the U.S. percentage. Of the 53 Fortune 500 companies that reside in California, 25 were founded by immigrants.