Join­ing Amer­i­can diplo­matic ser­vice was al­ways the ca­reer dream, Pi­azza says

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - DAVID PARKER David Parker ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Her­ald. Read his col­umns on­line at cal­gary­her­ busi­ness. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]­

Bri­tish Day at Spruce Mead­ows is a great op­por­tu­nity to not only watch the best of show jump­ing, to mix and min­gle with friends of Cal­gary-based Bri­tish Con­sul Gen­eral Caro­line Saun­ders.

Last Sun­day was also a great op­por­tu­nity for Lu­cia Pi­azza, the new U.S. con­sul gen­eral to Al­berta, Saskatchewan and the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, to be­come ac­quainted with other mem­bers of the con­sular corps and Cal­gary busi­ness lead­ers.

Pi­azza ar­rived in Cal­gary in late July, but since then has been busy mov­ing into her home, set­tling in to her of­fice and get­ting to know her staff.

She ad­mits that grow­ing up in New York, be­ing schooled on the East Coast and work­ing over­seas on as­sign­ments, she has lit­tle knowl­edge of the west of her own coun­try, much less Canada.

Pi­azza was born in Naples, Italy, where her Neapoli­tan mother met and mar­ried her father, also of Ital­ian her­itage, who was serv­ing in the U.S. Navy. The fam­ily moved to New York when Pi­azza was quite young, but af­ter her father joined the for­eign ser­vice he sent them back to Naples for their sum­mers, so she speaks flu­ent Ital­ian.

They did join him dur­ing his three-year post­ing to Mali, which is where she be­gan her love af­fair with Africa.

Her dream ca­reer path was al­ways to join the diplo­matic ser­vice and serve her coun­try in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, so Pi­azza was thrilled af­ter grad­u­at­ing in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence to be ac­cepted in the State Depart­ment in Wash­ing­ton in 2001 for train­ing, and, in Septem­ber of that year, was pre­par­ing for her first over­seas post­ing to Uganda.

Her of­fice was down the road from the Pen­tagon and the dread­ful 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks put the flight on hold for a while, but she was soon on her way to work in eco­nomic and com­mer­cial af­fairs, en­vi­ron­ment, and health and tech­nol­ogy.

“Liv­ing in Kam­pala was a dream at a time when Uganda was re­cov­er­ing from the HIV/ AIDS pan­demic and I was able to see the re­sponse to the con­cern,” she says. As a ju­nior of­fi­cer in the con­sulate, Pi­azza was re­spon­si­ble for con­trol of VIPs and ac­com­pa­nied U2 front­man Bono on a five-day visit to an AIDS or­phan­age. “I had an old Neiko phone and I called a friend back home to let her hear Bono singing. Cost me a for­tune but well worth it.”

Her next post­ing was to Togo, a small con­sulate where she was a con­sular of­fi­cer at a time when the coun­try held elec­tions for the first time in 24 years, and she had to re­spond to a plane crash in neigh­bour­ing Benin in which Amer­i­cans died — tough on a 24 year-old.

The next stop in her African ex­pe­ri­ence was Nige­ria for a two-year post­ing that in­cluded trips into Khar­toum and Dar­fur, Su­dan.

Back in Wash­ing­ton, Pi­azza took lessons in Ara­bic and was ea­ger to use her new lan­guage on her next as­sign­ment to Tu­nis, but used more of her French as the lo­cals spoke a Ber­ber di­alect rather than the Ara­bic she had stud­ied.

The com­pound where she worked was en­tered by pro­test­ers in the 2012 at­tack on the em­bassy, while her chil­dren were at school across the road. A ter­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but she says train­ing paid off and she re­ceived the first of two lead­er­ship awards; the sec­ond rec­og­nized her lead­er­ship in the Caribbean hur­ri­canes of 2017.

More re­cently back in Wash­ing­ton, Pi­azza says she ap­plied for the Cal­gary post­ing as it is rec­og­nized as one of the plums, and says she was de­lighted to be cho­sen over 60 other ap­pli­cants.

Here she over­sees a staff of 12 Amer­i­cans and 30 lo­cals, plus the cus­toms/im­mi­gra­tion staff at the Ed­mon­ton and Cal­gary air­ports.

It’s a busy con­sulate, but one Pi­azza is happy to be serv­ing in

I had an old Neiko phone and I called a friend back home to let her hear Bono singing. Cost me a for­tune but well worth it.

for the next three years.

Notes: Af­ter oper­at­ing her 16-year-old busi­ness on 11th Av­enue S.W. for the past 10 years, Deb­o­rah Her­ringer Kiss is re-lo­cat­ing her gallery next month to larger space at 1615 10th Av­enue S.W. The 70-per-cent larger gallery will al­low her to bring in new artists and ex­pand pro­gram­ming, as well as spe­cial large-scale-themed ex­hi­bi­tions.

Lu­cia Pi­azza is the new U.S. Con­sul Gen­eral to Al­berta, Saskatchewan and the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries.


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