The Heritage Foundation Names Kay Coles James New President

The Heritage Foundation Names Kay Coles James New President

Nation’s largest conservative think tank welcomes former Virginia health secretary and federal personnel director to lead research and policy organization

Dec 19, 2017 3 min read

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2017—The Heritage Foundation today announced Kay Coles James will become the sixth president in the think tank’s 44-year history. James will officially take over as president from founder Edwin J. Feulner on Jan. 1, 2018.

“Following an extensive search, Heritage’s Board of Trustees unanimously elected Kay Coles James to be our next president,” said Thomas A. Saunders III, chairman of Heritage’s Board of Trustees. “All of us at Heritage are looking forward to continuing working with Kay Coles James developing and advancing conservative policy solutions and principles that are in the best interest of the American people.”

James, a member of Heritage’s Board of Trustees since 2005, has a wealth of experience in public policy, having served as a leader in government, academia and the conservative movement during her 30-year career. She is a lifelong grassroots activist and has served in multiple roles at the local, state and national level.

“For more than four decades, The Heritage Foundation has been a vital force in American conservatism, producing the research, analysis, and solutions that inform and influence policymaking,” James said. “I’m honored that the board would ask me to lead this important work. What we believe, what we develop, what we fight for—these are the policies that help people. I look forward to expanding the conservative movement in a positive, inclusive way as we build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish.”

James began her career in public service as a member of the National Commission on Children under President Ronald Reagan. She later served as associate director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and as assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush. In 2001, James returned to the federal government to serve as President George W. Bush’s director of the Office of Personnel Management.

For the commonwealth of Virginia, she served as secretary of health and human resources and as a member of the state board of education under Gov. George Allen. As secretary, she was responsible for the development and rollout of statewide welfare reform. Earlier in her career, she served on the Fairfax County, Virginia, school board, one of the largest and most competitive public school systems in the nation.

In 2017, James and former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III led President Donald Trump’s transition team for the Office of Management and Budget, Office of Personnel Management, and General Services Administration.

During her career, James also served as dean of the School of Government at Regent University, as a senior fellow and director of The Citizenship Project at The Heritage Foundation, as the senior vice president of the Family Research Council, and as the executive vice president and chief operating officer for One to One Partnership, a national umbrella organization for mentoring programs. She is the founder and president of The Gloucester Institute, an organization that trains and nurtures leaders in the African-American community.

A graduate of Hampton University, James is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and is the author of three books: her award-winning autobiography “Never Forget” (1993); “Transforming America from the Inside Out” (1995); and “What I Wish I’d Known Before I Got Married” (2001).

James is married to Charles James Sr. and is a proud mother of three and grandmother of five.

“The board’s search committee is grateful for the input of The Heritage Foundation’s members, staff and supporters throughout the search process,” said former Attorney General Meese, who led the search committee after James, its previous chairwoman, was identified as a candidate. “Their insights were extremely helpful as we interviewed and evaluated extraordinarily talented candidates. We are very pleased that our work resulted in the selection of Kay Coles James.”

Feulner, The Heritage Foundation’s founder who returned to serve as president during the search process, will remain in an advisory role through January 2018 to assist with the transition. He will also resume his role as chairman of Heritage’s Asian Studies Center and Chung Ju-yung fellow.

“I’m thrilled that we have the good fortune that Kay Coles James is joining us as president of The Heritage Foundation,” said Feulner. “I am confident that under her leadership Heritage will remain committed to conservative principles and to expanding the conservative movement in a positive, inclusive way.”

A nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education institute, The Heritage Foundation is one of the nation’s premier think tanks. It is the most broadly supported think tank in the world, drawing support from more than 500,000 members.