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Lessons From Hurricane Katrina: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make 'Something Greater'

City Councilmember, Tustin, Calif.

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Letitia Clark was born and raised in Orange County, Calif., where she now serves on the board of the Tustin City Council. But her life in public service was forged 2,000 miles away in New Orleans. After graduating from that city’s Xavier University, her first job was as an aide to a member of the New Orleans City Council. In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit, Clark became a key part of the city’s response team. The crisis taught her the importance of resilience and of building “something greater,” she says.

Later, after grad school, Clark returned to Orange County; she was elected to the city council in 2016. As an African-American leader in a city that’s only 2 percent black, Clark says she’s focused on building bridges. “I can’t change my skin color. I can’t change the fact that I’m a woman. And I don’t want to change those things,” she says. “I want to build a consensus among different people.” 

She has focused on education and economic development, and on fighting brain drain in her hometown. Last year, she spearheaded an initiative she first learned about in New Orleans: Lemonade Day, which teaches children about entrepreneurship and management by starting their own lemonade businesses.

Read about the Women in Government program and the rest of the honorees.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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