HELLO AND GOODBYE

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES

DATE: 5/23/2013

At the Consul General’s residence in Bel Air, a change of guards took place Wednesday night. Kirsti Westphalen, who has served as Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles for the past five years, bid a fond farewell to the local Finnish community and friends of Finland. Then she introduced the new incoming Consul General, Juha Markkanen. Finntimes was there to record the memorable evening and to interview both the incoming and outgoing Consul Generals.

Outgoing Consul General Kirsti Westphalen introduced her successor Juha markkanen to the audience.

Outgoing Consul General Kirsti Westphalen introduced her successor Juha markkanen to the audience.

The nature of the event was evident already at the front door. Both the old and new Consul Generals were there to meet and greet the guests. They then mingled in the crowd. People were eager to say farewell to Kirsti Westphalen and to meet her successor.

Susanna Golche and Ava Anttila

Susanna Golche and Ava Anttila

Henry and Eeva Syvänen, Kirpi Uimonen-Ballesteros and Tiina Purtonen

Henry and Eeva Syvänen, Kirpi Uimonen-Ballesteros and Tiina Purtonen

 

Scandinavian Film Festival director Jim Koenig and actress Irina Björklund

Scandinavian Film Festival director Jim Koenig and actress Irina Björklund

David and Mira Scott

David and Mira Scott

The new Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Juha Markkanen, will assume his post September 1st, 2013

The new Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Juha Markkanen, will assume his post September 1st, 2013

Juha Markkanen has had a long career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. He has worked in the  EU secretariat and the embassies of Tokyo and Bonn. His latest post was in the Embassy of Stockholm, where he served as Minister. He has also worked as Editor-in-Chief of the trade policy magazine Kauppapolitiikka and as Director of Information in the Department for Communication and Culture. He is married with Tuula Markkanen. She will be working on her Master’s thesis in education while in Los Angeles.

Juha and Tuula Markkanen get refreshments at the residence.

Juha and Tuula Markkanen get refreshments at the residence.

We sat down with Juha Markkanen for a chat.

Please introduce yourself to us.

-My name is Juha Markkanen. I think I’m going to use the name JP Markkanen – it’s easier here. I’m the new Consul General of Finland as of the first of September here in LA.

-I am 50 years old and I’m coming from Stockholm, Sweden. I have been in foreign service for the past 22 years. I hope to be of assistance here in promoting Finland in various ways and deepening the Finnish – U.S. relations. That is my task and I need co-operation with the locals. Let’s make this a win-win situation!

What did you do in Stockholm?

-I’m the number two at the Finnish embassy in Stockholm – the Deputy Chief of Mission. That work entailed a lot of administration and also reporting on various subjects.

-Here in California, I will also deal with Arctic issues, since Alaska is one of the states under the Consul General’s territory. In Stockholm I was evaluating the Arctic perspectives.

-Last week in Kiiruna, Northern Sweden, we had a ministerial meeting that the Secretary of State, John Kerry attended.

Juha Markkanen with Abdellatif Moufakkir, the spouse of Kirsti Westphalen.

Juha Markkanen with Abdellatif Moufakkir, the spouse of Kirsti Westphalen.

You couldn’t come to a more different place than that – Los Angeles – have you been here before?

-No, unfortunately I haven’t. We have only been here since this past Sunday – four days.

What are your first impressions?

-It is an enormously interesting and challenging city and state – huge traffic problems, but very friendly people.

Juha Markkanen will become the next Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles.

Juha Markkanen will become the next Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles.

Tell me about your family?

-I have two children – daughter Maria, 16, and son Juho, 18. We are now seeking high school options for my daughter and a college or university for our son. We have considered both public and private high schools. I have asked people’s opinions tonight and I also learned about a couple of schools nearby.

Your son could complete his undergraduate studies during your four-year term?

-Yes, that’s his wish. I think Santa Monica City College will be his starting point.

When you formally start this fall, what are the first items on the agenda?

-I need to have a chat at the office, because we have moved to a new, more affordable premises. Kirsti Westphalen fought for the survival of the Consulate General of Los Angeles (that was under the threat of being shut down). I need to meet with many people to gain knowledge on issues in order to start my work.

You don’t come in with a set agenda?

-No, no. I need to learn, I need help from my friends – Finnish and U.S. citizens, the media… This is a collaboration.

Is there anything that surprised you upon arriving here?

-Well, I knew that people would be friendly here, but that turned out to be an understatement. I have been received very warmly – also at the schools I’ve been evaluating for my children. After having spent four days in California, I am starting to understand how it is up to oneself to accomplish one’s work. You are on your own.

-I had a chat with the former Consul General Maria Serenius two months ago in Helsinki and got good advice from her. I highly respect both Maria Serenius’ and Kirsti Westphalen’s work here. We have had two excellent ladies here. Now it is a man’s turn here and I am trying to do my best.

-I am enormously excited!

Honorary Council of San Diego, Kathryn Mautino, gave Kirsti Westphalen a picture depicting San Diego.

Honorary Council of San Diego, Kathryn Mautino, gave Kirsti Westphalen a picture depicting San Diego.

An endless stream of well-wishers inundated the outgoing Kirsti Westphalen and her husband Abdellatif Moufakkir. I finally got a change to catch up with Kirsti at the end of the evening.

Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen with Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen.

Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen with Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen.

We are sad to see you go. Thank you very much for the wonderful five years that you’ve been with us here. Now you are heading toward new adventures as the Ambassador to Thailand – your feelings?

-Well, we are going to be really sorry to go. We are going to have wonderful memories of California. And I’ve got to tell you: California is going to follow us in our footsteps. I have a life-long interest in anything that is new, dynamic, progressive, sustainable – that is what California is to the United States and to the world.

-So, I am sure I will be following this sort of dynamics, wherever I will be in the world.

Kirsti Westphalen with real estate agent Janice Hiltunen.

Kirsti Westphalen with real estate agent Janice Hiltunen.

Over the years, what has been the biggest surprise to you here?

-I had lived in California as an exchange student, as a youngster. I was always fascinated by the diversity in California. Through this more professional approach, it has not been a surprise, but I have been so grateful of the fact that I have gotten to know so many talented people. I have learned so much of the direction that the world is going to take in the future – how people are going to consume, how they are going to behave online, what the world is going to look like and what direction it is going to take and what California is going to predict for Finland as well.

Ava Anttila and Christel Pauli from the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Chapter handed a plaque of appreciation to Kirsti Westphalen.

Ava Anttila and Christel Pauli from the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Chapter handed a plaque of appreciation to Kirsti Westphalen.

-It has been tremendously rewarding working as a liaison, communicating what is best in Finland to California and to the United States – for example, education. But also communicating vice versa, because the world is not a two way street. The world is a place of networks. Where the best brains, that counts. And that’s where the Finns should be.

And indeed you have been very active in communicating with other countries as well, in addition to Finland and the U.S.?

-This has been a particular honor that has been bestowed upon me last year, when I became the dean of the Los Angeles consular core, where we have the representation of 98 countries altogether. Virtually the entire world is present here in Los Angeles diplomatically.

Actress Lisa Niemi and Kirsti Westphalen

Actress Lisa Niemi and Kirsti Westphalen

-Part of the honor of representing the consular core is that you have the opportunity to take part in so many events and that you meet people from all of these countries. And you meet important Californians. You get to hang out with the mayor and the governor!

Tell me about the new premises of the consulate?

-We, as a part of the Finnish government, are counting our pennies. We want to make sure that where we use money, it is wisely used and invested. So, the premises have been changed to more modest and smaller ones.

-This has brought on important savings of taxpayer money. So, while we can cut down on fixed costs, like rent, we are able to retain the basic core functions of the consulate – servicing our Finnish community nearly ten thousand strong in 13 western states.

-And the important political tasks that we have here, in communicating what is best in Finland, whether it’s education, science and innovation, clean technology, sustainable solutions, whether it is supporting our creative Finns in the “Silicon Beach” kind of thinking that is so important to the growth of Los Angeles, California and Finland in the future.

Is there a particular item that you were able to accomplish that stands out that you are proud of?

-Perhaps I can say that the new way of doing things in a wider Finnish foreign service and Finnish public service – the team Finland thinking, in which all of us have to pull together to achieve results. That is what we have done here in California – not only during my time, but the time of my predecessors.

-I’m very grateful to see that the rest of Finland is going California way!

Abdellatif Moufakkir and Kirsti Westphalen are getting ready to move to Thailand.

Abdellatif Moufakkir and Kirsti Westphalen are getting ready to move to Thailand.

And now onto the new challenge – what do you know about your upcoming post as the Ambassador to Thailand?

-Well, I wish I knew more. Our embassy in Thailand covers countries of Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. This is a new part of the world and our employer is so kind as to always offer us new challenges, which I really will have in front of me. I have lots to learn.

-You referred to the fact that the consulate here was in danger of closing and we have been able to save the consulate through savings. I want to thank you personally, Tomi and Finntimes and all your efforts in getting the Finnish community organized and in communicating the strong desire of the local Finnish community here in supporting the activities of the consulate. Not only its service functions, but the fact that we are doing important work for the success of Finland here. So, I’m very grateful of that.

And I’m sure I will speak for all Finntimes readers in saying that we are glad we were able to help.

The Finnish community toasts Kirsti Westphalen.

The Finnish community toasts Kirsti Westphalen.

 

CHRISTEL PAULI – AN INTERNATIONAL WOMAN OF MYSTERY

Christel Pauli, President of the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce on the Pacific

STORY: CHRISTEL PAULI
REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES
PHOTOGRAPHS: JONNY KAHLEYN

The Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce on the Pacific elected Christel Pauli as their new president. But who on earth is Christel Pauli? Behind a calm facade, she holds some astonishing surprises.

She is an environmentalist who works for an oil giant; a former au pair who went on to build a spectacular career in law; a girl from a Swedish-speaking middle-class family who chose adventure abroad over a safety net back home. Now this woman of many talents introduces herself to the public for the very first time.

“Hello, my name is Christel Pauli. I am from Helsinki, Finland. I have a twin sister named Susan who works as a civil engineer, and my parents are Brita and Ole. My father is a retired engineer and my mom was a stay-at-home housewife and mother. When my sister and I were 17-years old, my mom decided to go to work for the Lutheran church. She became a personal assistant to the pastor of our congregation. They all still live in Finland, as do my other relatives as well.”

A life abroad started to interest Christel at an early age.

I grew up listening to fascinating stories from my mother who was raised in Kenya, and dreamt of a place that would stay sunny and warm all year around. When I graduated from high-school, I was ready to go. I had always been intrigued by the United States and thought that this would be a good opportunity to visit for a year as an au pair before I would go to the university. So, I came here alone the year I graduated from High school (lukio) in 1985.”

Christel’s first preference would have been to be placed in Los Angeles, but there was no host family available there. Instead, she ended up in the lone star state.

“My host family was in Dallas, Texas. It was somewhat of a culture shock. Texans are extremely proud of their State where everything is projected to be the best and the biggest.. It was interesting to witness that kind of an attitude and culture. I made good friends fairly quickly and also enjoyed my independence. I used to drive off on weekends to places like Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. The United States is astonishingly large and has so many different cultures and people. I found very easy to travel around and experience and learn new things. It was very different from Finland where expectations were higher that you would fit into a certain mold. I felt that in The United States one could be themselves. And I enjoyed that.”

Christel’s host family was dysfunctional.

“I was placed into a family of four. The boy was three and the girl six years old. The father was an engineer working for Microsoft. The mother had been institutionalized for a year after having suffered from a nervous breakdown. She would lock herself in her bedroom and would not see the children or interact with them. So, I was responsible for the children 24 hours a day. The father would leave the house before the children and I got up to get ready for school. He would not come home from work until I had put the kids to bed. I had the kids Monday through Friday and the grandparents took the kids for the weekends. The parents did not participate in the children’s lives and I had the run of the whole household. I got to make all the decisions about their upbringing, meals, etc. I don’t think I would have done so well had I had someone else around telling me what to do. I enjoyed the independence that I was given – to be in charge all the time a hundred per cent.”

“I completed my year as an au pair and went back to Finland for the summer, spending it at my parents’ summer house in Inkoo.”

Christel made a critical decision not to enroll in the esteemed University of Helsinki, where she had been accepted to study. Love factored in Christel’s decision.

“I had met a man in Dallas during my first year who invited me to move in with him. That summer when I was in Finland he called a lot and was asking me to come back. So, I went back. We stayed together for a few years but then grew apart. I took my studies very seriously while he just wanted to continue having fun without pursuing anything.”

She was accepted in another excellent school – University of California, Los Angeles.

Christel Pauli, President of the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce on the Pacific and journalist Tomi Hinkkanen

“I enrolled at UCLA and ended up getting my bachelor’s degree in Political Science in International Relations there in 1992.”

Then Christel did something unexpected.

“I took a year off and worked for a non-profit organization called CALPER – California Public Interest Research Group where I advocated for consumer rights and environmental issues. I did a lot of grassroots campaigning and organized canvassers to go to neighborhoods to educate people and raise funds.”

Christel enjoyed community organizing and excelled in it.

“I would organize groups of young people. Every night we would go out in the neighborhoods and knock on doors and tell people about the campaigns we were running and asked them to sign up. We were trying to get some environmental bills passed in Congress and people were very responsive. I started out by canvassing by myself. It went very well and I then I became the best canvasser in the LA office. After that was promoted to become a field manager and started running the canvassing teams. I would drive the canvassers to different neighborhoods. We would also write letters to the representatives in Congress, and a have many weekend drives. There were a lot of young, idealistic people involved.”

However, it was time to move on. Christel continued her education in law.

“I went to UC Davis School of Law outside Sacramento but finished up at UCLA. I did an externship for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals under judge Harry Pregerson who was of one of the most respected judges on the Pacific coast in the 1990’s. I received my Juris Doctor, a graduate degree in law, in 1996.”

Upon graduation, Christel once again returned to Finland.

“I practiced law at an American law firm named Gilbert, Segall and Young in Helsinki. At that same time I was also giving lectures about American law at Fintra, a business training group.”

Christel ended up staying only a year. 1998 saw her return to the City of Angels.

“I started working for a law firm in downtown Los Angeles that specialized in environmental law as a corporate attorney.

Christel Pauli, President of the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce on the Pacific

Then Christel applied for a similar position in the Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Oxy. It was a surprising move from a woman who had worked for the environment.

“A headhunter called me about this position at Oxy. So, I went to the interview. There I was asked if there was some kind of mix up. Since they knew I had worked for Calper. I said that the reason I am applying for the job was that I care about the environment and it would be good for an oil company to have someone like me as a counterbalance, and to offer a different perspective on things. Apparently they thought it was a good answer because I ended up getting the job. Now 11 years later I still have that same position.”

Christel Pauli holds an important corporate position at Oxy.

“I do strictly corporate law. I do a lot of securities compliance work – compliance with the New York Stock Exchange rules and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Oxy is a publicly traded company listed in the NYSE. I make sure that our officers and board members will not engage in any insider trading. I also administer all the equity incentive compensation programs. Oxy has board meetings five times a year, and I coordinate the meetings; get all the directors to come to attend and organize materials and everything that the board needs to approve.”

Her involvement with Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce has been deepening over the years.

“I joined the board about seven years ago, and then I became the vice president three years ago. Over the years I have become increasingly active in organizing events and handling the annual meetings. I have made sure that we are in compliance with all the rules of a California non profit entity. As an attorney, that is important to me. I have taken upon myself to handle that aspect for FACC.”

This fall Christel made her debut as the president of FACC.

“We recently had the first meeting of the new board. We elected new seven officers. There are 12 slots in the board, so we have five vacancies. I will be working closely with the other officers to make sure that all our financial statements are kept up to date, and to make sure that we meet our members’ expectations by organizing networking opportunities to promote their businesses in Southern California and give them opportunities to get to know other people who are interested in Finland.”

FACC on the Pacific is a small chamber of commerce.

“We currently have 55 members. Most of them are individuals. Eight of them are corporations. Some of our individual members are also business owners who have opted to join as individuals. People are welcome to join at any level, but there are more benefits if one joins as a corporation. We will feature them in our newsletter; we will organize events featuring their businesses, and they will be able to post ads on our website.”

The costs are 35 dollars for an individual member and 250 dollars for a corporate membership per year. FACC on the Pacific covers the entire West Coast, except Seattle, that has its own chamber.

“We have businesses across many industries such as healthcare, law, and technology groups. We are open to any type of business. They don’t have to be Finnish. Any connection or interest in Finland is enough.”

Southern California is the chamber’s most active area.

There are eight Finnish American Chambers of Commerce in the United States. They meet once a year. For the past two years the meetings have taken place in Washington DC. The chambers’ presidents keep in touch with a conference call four times a year.

“We talk about the latest developments, share ideas on successful past events and future events. We try to identify synergies and develop them.”

A large operational area poses challenges.

“One challenge that we share is to maintain and also increase our membership numbers. In a big city like LA, it is sometimes difficult to get all our members to attend our events. Driving distances are so long.”

Chirstel Pauli emphasizes the importance of constantly re-inventing the chamber.

“We try to keep our activities current and updated, so that they remain relevant and interesting to our members. There are so many organizations that they can join. So the question is: why should they join the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce?”

Christel answers, “It brings together Finnish people and those who are interested in Finland. Since we all are far away from Finland, from our roots, it is important to identify those people who are interested in Finland enough to attend our events. It is all about maintaining that connection.”

FACC has produced some real success stories for its members.

“One of our new corporate members is Healthy Life Devices. It’s a Finnish company that has invented a type of a massage tool called Lympha Touch. It stimulates the lymphatic system. It is beneficial for anyone with circulation problems. I introduced this company to an American chiropractor named Michael Sheps here in LA., and he is now using it for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team. They just brought home 11 medals from South Korea. Michael mentioned that there is no massage tool that comes even close to that one invented by Tapani Taskinen, who also founded the company. The idea is to market this massage tool to the U.S. Army to be used by the soldiers in Afghanistan.”

Now that Christel has taken the gavel of FAAC Pacific, she lays out her future plans:

“I would like to have more Finns in our community to get to know the chamber and to get more involved. There are so few Finns here. For example, the French and Italian chambers of commerce have thousands of members. We cannot compete with the scale of their events. There are lots of Finns here who are not involved in any way and do not know much about us. I would like to have them to get to know us better – so that they can determine if it would be beneficial for them to join in and become active members – even if only to participate in our events.”

Christel emphasizes the importance of getting young people involved.

“We would like to reach a younger audience. I would like to focus in arts and entertainment since we are here in LA. I don’t want people to think of the chamber as an intimidating organization made up of archaic business people with a corporate mindset. I would like people to associate the chamber as a current organization that all Finns can benefit from regardless what business they are in and regardless of age. It is for everyone to get together and make the Finnish community stronger. That’s what I would like to do.”