Department of Housing and Urban Development

After graduating from HLS in 2005, Kathie Soroka went to work in private practice on affordable housing finance and development. While she enjoyed her job, she was alsointerested in the opportunity to work in the federal government, an interest she had sharedwith Alexa Shabecoff, assistant dean for public service at HLS’s Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising.

Enter Damon Smith ’02, then special assistant to Department of Housing and Urban Development General Counsel Helen Kanovsky ’76. Smith, who has a background in urban planning and real estate law and previously worked as a professor, joined HUD after serving as a volunteer during the presidential campaign of Barack Obama ’91.

When the position opened up for a new special assistant in the General Counsel’s Office, Smith reached out to Shabecoff, who suggested Soroka as a possible fit for the role. Smith had remembered meeting Soroka through an event organized by OPIA, and called her about the opening.

While OPIA made the connection, Smith said Soroka clearly earned herself the job. “She came out for interviews and blew us away,” he said.

In turn, Soroka said Smith was incredibly helpful in answering her many questions and giving her an honest perspective on the position. He also provided an admirable model in his knowledge, experience, and general outlook both on his own career and on public service in general, Soroka said.

In the two months since Soroka joined the General Counsel’s Office, Smith – who now serves as HUD’s acting associate general council for insured housing – has continued to provide advice and mentorship as Soroka transitions into her new role.

“Damon has been fundamentally helpful in my transition to this job,” Soroka said. “It’s hard to express how different this experience is than my previous job, and I’m immensely thankful for the chance to merge my private practice perspective with my new understanding of how these programs were written and the interests behind them.”

—Lauren Kiel

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