After graduating from Georgetown University, Kathryn Lhota ’09 began her career in the “family business” of public service, which has led to an emergency management role with the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
Poly alumni might remember that Lhota’s father, former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota, ran for Mayor of New York City in 2013. “I have to say that working on my dad’s campaign was one of the most fun and rewarding experiences,” Kathryn Lhota recalls. “I got to work alongside my family and I saw New York City in a whole new way. I saw NYC through the eyes of other New Yorkers and it was both a powerful and humbling experience. I really do believe in my dad’s message: We may be five boroughs, but we are one New York.”
“I love politics because it is a forum to tell the public about your vision,” Lhota said. “While at the end of the day someone wins and someone loses, getting different ideas out there so the public can make an informed decision is incredibly important and vital to a democracy.”
“Growing up, public service was a recurring theme,” Lhota continued. “I have had family members in the FDNY and the NYPD. My parents both served in City government. One point that I find particularly important is the difference between politics and government. Where politics is trying to convince the public to vote and governing is actually serving the people.”
Lhota credits Poly teachers who inspired her interest in politics and government. “At Poly, both Mr. Sivin (History) and Mr. Muska (American Politics) really fostered and inspired me to go after and develop my opinions.” She recalls participating in a mock election debate in Chapel. Lhota added, “Poly is such a great community and the teachers and faculty are so supportive of students going after their dreams, but also giving them the opportunity to expand their dreams.”
At Poly, Lhota participated in student government, AIDS Awareness club, and swim team and performed in plays such as “Othello” and “Mother Courage and Her Children.” As a sophomore, she worked on a 2008 presidential election campaign.
Before her new role at the NYS Division of Homeland Security, Lhota was press coordinator for the governor of New Jersey and served as a teaching assistant in her master’s program. She earned an M.S. in Healthcare Emergency Management from Boston University in 2016.
While pursuing her BA in Government at Georgetown, Lhota took to heart the school’s mission, “men and women in service of others.” “Currently I work in emergency management, which is a great way to help build resilient communities in the face of potential disastrous events,” Lhota explained. “I have always wanted to work in emergency management since 9/11 when I witnessed my parents, along with City government, respond to the terrorist attacks that day. I had the opportunity to go to the command center and witness great teamwork that embodied the success of the mindset of preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. As I got older, I was able to hone in on why I was so intrigued and passionate about emergency management. Georgetown gave me an overall excellent education (Poly did too!) and equipped me with the knowledge about government to pursue my career in emergency management.”
“I am a planning analyst and I love my job,” Lhota continued. “In New York, the State Office of Emergency Management is housed under the State Division of Homeland Security. In a nutshell, emergency management is planning, preparing, mitigating, responding, and recovering from any disaster or emergency. As a planning analyst, I work on state emergency plans and training/exercises. It is a wonderful job and, if there is an emergency, it can be a round-the-clock effort, but it is so rewarding. It's an honor to serve here because I get to be a part of what makes all of the communities in New York State more resilient and prepared.”
“I definitely want to stay and grow in the field of emergency management,” Lhota added. “But emergency management can take so many forms; it can be in the public or private sector.” Does she have political aspirations? “As far as running for office goes, I will never say never,” she said.
Lhota describes herself as having “a good balance between idealism and pragmatism.” She explained, “I have dreams and I want to shoot for the stars – it’s what motivates me, but I am also very pragmatic and I look to see how I can reasonably and realistically achieve my goals. Especially in my line of work, the idea is to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.”
For her new job, Lhota has moved to Albany, which she is still exploring. But she enjoys staying in touch with classmates on Poly’s Facebook page.