It’s clear that Christie L. Houlihan was purposeful in making educational and career choices that fit well into her personal plan, one she has been devising carefully since she left her hometown of Bronxville to set off for college.
When parts of the plan didn’t work, she learned to make adjustments, finding new opportunities in the process.
Getting a law degree versus an MBA was one of those choices — one that just made sense to her and seemed more aligned with her plan. She was raised and educated through high school in Bronxville with her siblings, Kelly and Bryan.
Her father, James J. Houlihan, continues the lineage of leadership in a multigenerational business and serves as a managing partner of Houlihan-Parnes Realtors LLC. Houlihan is senior director and counsel, and her brother, Bryan, serves as a senior director as well. They represent the fifth generation in a company that celebrated 125 continuous years of service in commercial real estate in 2016. Its portfolio represents about 8.5 million square feet of office, industrial, retail and mixed-use space.
Although Houlihan worked summers and vacation periods in her young teenage years at the company, as did her siblings, her father was not vocal in advocating for her to join the business after pursuing her education goals.
“In hindsight,” she said, “I think it was a winning strategy and may have been intentional on his part.”
She went to Northwestern University for undergraduate studies — enrolling in the Medill School of Journalism, but within the first semester she realized the fit wasn’t quite right, so she switched over to the School of Social Policy — with a curriculum she felt would serve her well in the future. She spent summers during her college years as an unpaid intern on the staff of the first-term senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Her passions for health care, education and public policy were stoked. Her contributions increased, but did not go unnoticed, as she became a full-time employee, serving as assistant to the campaign manager for Clinton’s 2006 re-election campaign. Houlihan had become familiar with the long hours and the intensiveness of the environment.
“In the beginning, I may have been the lowest person on the totem pole,” she said, “but I learned a vast amount just being out in the workplace at a very young age.”
Following her work with Clinton, Houlihan transitioned to the Committee on Energy and Commerce within the U.S. House of Representatives, working as a legislative clerk and gaining knowledge on other workings of the government. She dove into the legislative process, working on nearly a dozen projects and learning firsthand “the life of a bill” in Washington.
Her proudest accomplishment was contributing to the year-long process leading up to the reauthorization and expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which insures nearly 9 million children.
She had her sights set on attending Fordham University’s School of Law. After receiving her Juris Doctorate degree, she spent about five years putting her education to work immediately with New York City law firms, wanting to solidify her work on behalf of landlords and tenants alike.
Joining the family at Houlihan-Parnes was her intention, but she never wanted to be one of those people who just showed up.
“I wanted to bring something to the table,” she said.
Houlihan-Parnes is among the firms acquiring and repurposing buildings that need “a little TLC.”
It has taken buildings such as 660 White Plains Road in Tarrytown and made significant improvements. This pyramid-shaped building is completely refurbished.
Her role lies mostly in business development, but her JD degree certainly comes in handy for the numerous acquisitions and related closings taking place. She has developed strong ties with her peers in the industry, organizing occasional dinners for a core group to brainstorm and socialize.
Her colleagues and friends from the DC years have remained constants in her life, so much so that a few years back she amped up her involvement in the campaign of her good friend, now U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, who successfully won a congressional seat in the 11th district of Michigan in 2018.
Houlihan hosted a fundraiser and campaigned for Stevens remotely. She went to Detroit for the primary and election nights and attended the swearing-in ceremony.
“It was such a thrill to see her take the oath of office, then walk along with her colleagues to the Hill and see her name on the door.”
As for her diverse path, Houlihan says she is grateful.
“I believe it brings a unique perspective to the business,” she said. “For the first time ever, I feel emotionally connected to continuing this business.”