Elise M. Johansen

2016 40 Under 40 Honoree


Executive Director

Safe Voices

Elise believes the path to leadership is not a straight line, but rather a winding road that, if you are willing, open and positive, will be worth every twist and turn. She avoids limiting her aspirations and keeps an open mind when it comes to trying new methods of achieving her goals. It was her positive “just say yes” attitude that led Elise to her current position as Executive Director of Safe Voices. By being clear about her vision and not afraid to ask for help, she was able to turn a department of three staff members into a robust program that boasts up to twenty-four staff members with numerous new sources of funding. She views her primary duty as carrying out the mission of Safe Voices in working to end domestic violence. Her regular responsibilities include serving as spokesperson, setting the leadership model for the agency and ensuring that all agency activities are held to the highest possible standards.

Apart from her work with Safe Voices, Elise’s favorite thing about L/A is enjoying the view on her daily commute to work. Seeing birds of prey and turkeys, along with other wildlife along the river is a wonderful way to begin her day. A huge coffee fan, she often sets meetings at Forage Market so she can indulge in their delicious brews. For lunches and other events at Safe Voices, Lewiston House of Pizza is always a hit. Personally, she favors Marche and Davinci’s and recently became a fan of Margarita’s after enjoying their food at a benefit for Safe Voices. Elise is a lover of animals and nature, and often spends the weekends hiking, gardening, or exploring the tidal pools at the beach with her wife. Indoors, she is a self-proclaimed “major book nerd” and enjoys watching reality TV. Elise and her wife are also committed to supporting local businesses, purchasing many goods from local farmers and artisans.

In the next ten years, Elise envisions herself running a large, successful non-profit, being a best-selling author, or both! Causes she is most passionate about include fighting for the rights of women, animals, the LGBTQ community, and the environment. She has worked hard throughout her career to collaborate with community stakeholders to create new services and enhance existing ones and to ensure that all people are treated fairly and holistically. She plans to continue her efforts to create a culture of kindness and empowerment in the L/A area. For Elise, the keys to success are to dream big and say “yes.”