NEW U.S. CONSUL HONED HER SKILLS IN AFRICA POSTINGS
Joining American diplomatic service was always the career dream, Piazza says
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.