The April 2001 issue of Comstock’s magazine.

Still Going Strong: Catching Up with Eleni Kounalakis

Back Article Jul 29, 2019 By Tom Couzens

When Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis appeared with her brother, Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, on the cover with the headline “Generation Next,” she was president of AKT Development Corporation, a company she joined in 1993, though she actually started working there at a much younger age.

“I try to work every bit as hard as he does, and he works pretty hard,” she said then of her father, Angelo Tsakopoulos, who started the company in the mid-1960s. “He never talked about it at home. The only way to find out was at the office. Starting in high school, I would come in and work during the summer and Christmas.”

The story focused on family businesses and how they transitioned responsibility and control. At the time, Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis’ brother was executive vice president and general counsel, and her husband, Markos Kounalakis, was a vice president. 

(Courtesy image)

Status Check

Eleni Kounalakis, now 53, became California’s lieutenant governor in January. She’s the first woman elected to the office and it is her first elected position, though this is certainly not her first foray into politics. She served four times as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and was an at-large member of the California State Democratic Central Committee. She’s also been a member of the First 5 California Commission and the California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism. In 2010, she was appointed to be the U.S. ambassador to Hungary by President Barack Obama and stayed in the position for three years.

“When I was president of AKT, I never thought I would be a U.S. ambassador,” she says. “And when I was serving as an ambassador, I never thought I would be lieutenant governor. … Thinking about my own career path has always been less interesting than diving into the work at hand, and there is a lot to do in my new office.”

She says over the next four — and possibly eight — years, she will be focusing on trade, public higher education and the state’s climate agenda. “I’m excited to partner with Gov. (Gavin) Newsom as his representative for international affairs and trade development. Trade can help grow our economy and create good-paying jobs,” she says. “As a member of the UC Regents and CSU Trustees, I take this work very seriously — our students deserve leadership which will ensure that college is affordable and truly prepares them for the economy of the future. … (Climate change is) real, and California is taking the lead in addressing the impacts.”

AKT Investments is now headed up by her sister, Chrysanthy Tsakopoulos Demos, who became CEO last year after 10 years as a vice president.

This is the final installment in a five-part retrospective series on past Comstock’s magazine cover subjects in celebration of our 30th anniversary. To see all of our 30th anniversary coverage, click or tap here.

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