Karen Humphrey retired from California state service in 2011 after a varied 45-year career in communications, public service, and education leadership in Eureka, Fresno, and Sacramento. Several times, she was the first woman holding her position.
Humphrey began her professional life in early 1967 as a television news reporter and anchorperson on local stations in Eureka and Fresno—the first woman reporter on the air in both markets. After leaving television in 1979, Humphrey was elected to the Fresno City Council, where she served two terms. In 1989, she was elected Fresno’s first woman Mayor and served in that position until 1993.
After leaving office, Humphrey consulted in public policy, business and media; taught Women's Studies courses at California State University, Fresno, and was active in a number of political, civic, and women’s organizations, including the National Women’s Political Caucus of Fresno and the Title IX Equity Coalition of Fresno County.
In late 1996, Humphrey joined the California Department of Education as Senior Advisor to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, later moving to the department’s division responsible for workforce development. During eight years at CDE, she also held a number of gender equity assignments and served five years as the Superintendent’s representative on the California Commission on the Status of Women. In 2001, she became Administrator of the Office of Workforce Development, focusing on both workforce development and educational equity.
In September 2004, Humphrey moved to the California Postsecondary Education Commission—the state’s independent policy advisory body for higher education—to administer a federally-funded grant program for teacher professional development. In February 2009, she became the Commission’s first woman Executive Director, a position she held until late 2011 when Governor Brown eliminated the agency and she retired.
Since retirement, Humphrey has been active in the National Women’s Political Caucus of Sacramento and California, serving as State President during 2017-18 and currently serving as Public Policy Chair. She has also actively participated in social justice advocacy focused on LGBTQ inclusion and homelessness at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Sacramento.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Humphrey moved to California in 1961 and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Southern California in 1966 with a degree in humanities. In 2003, she earned a masters’ degree in women’s studies and public policy at California State University, Sacramento. Karen’s late husband Ken Clarke, a retired television director, was her partner and greatest supporter for more than 45 years. They have three daughters, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
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The mission of the Sacramento Chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus is to increase women’s participation in the political process. We identify, recruit, train and support feminist women for election and appointment to public office at every level of government.
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