Administrator, U.S. General Services Administration, Washington, D.C.
When Lurita Alexis Doan was sworn in as the eighteenth administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration on May 31, 2006, she became the first woman to serve in that capacity. The premiere procurement agency for the federal government, the GSA holds sway over a portfolio worth more than $550 billion. As administrator, Doan is responsible for 12,000 employees and more than one-fourth of the U.S. government’s total procurement dollars. Her combination of back-to-basics and innovation led the agency to be ranked in 2007 as one of the best places to work in the federal government.
The recipient of several awards for innovation and entrepreneurship, Doan comes from a family of entrepreneurs that dates back to her grandmother, who owned an insurance company and rental property and was among the first African-American women entrepreneurs at the turn of the 20th century. Her father founded a business school. After earning a bachelor’s degree at Vassar College and a master’s at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, both in English literature, she saw the potential of the then-fledgling computing world and in 1990 founded a surveillance technology company. She remained its president, CEO and sole owner until 2005. “The field of personal computing had just been invented and opportunity abounded. My business evolved over time as all successful businesses do, but the specialty was the design and integration of complex secure, encrypted surveillance solutions for the federal government, specializing in deployments at U.S. ports of entry,” she explains.
A native of New Orleans, Doan lost her home during Hurricane Katrina, the only top-tier federal employee to be directly affected by the disaster. She now works with state and local governments through the GSA’s newly created Office of Emergency Response and Recovery to pre-position goods and supplies in the event of another natural disaster or national emergency.
Drawing inspiration from former President Theodore Roosevelt, who, she contends, was “the first president to encourage African-American entrepreneurs to live the American Dream,” Doan hopes to encourage more Americans, especially minorities, to enter public service. For this endeavor, she would use her own success as an example of why you should “never, never, never quit,” she says, paraphrasing the credo of Sir Winston Churchill, the late British prime minister.