Among other company visits, members of the Atlanta Consular Corps were able to sample Richland Rum during the International VIP Tour organized by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Erik Vonk, the proprietor, is a former Dutch honorary consul in Georgia. Photo: GDEcD

Atlanta’s diplomatic door continued to revolve last year with big changes to makeup and leadership of the Georgia Consular Corps, which provides a  direct conduit to more than 70 foreign governments. 

One of the biggest changes was the departure of the dean, the longest-serving member of the corps, who often takes on organizational duties for the tightly knit group. 

Claudia Valenzuela, El Salvador’s consul general, left after six years in Atlanta, a city she described as a new home. The veteran diplomat had served in Tokyo and at the United Nations, but for her, Atlanta was where policy met personality: Here, she had the chance to impact lives directly, she told Global Atlanta during one of our monthly Consular Conversations in June. 

“You can imagine what you can create with all of these people that are looking for the best of the country,” Ms. Valenzuela said. “I see my constituency here in Atlanta, and I expect the best.” (Her successor, Lucia Ventura, took over in July). 

Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, the United Kingdom’s consul general, stepped up to become dean after it was announced that he would spend another year in Atlanta. (British diplomats often depart after three or four, and Mr. Pilmore-Bedford arrived in 2013.) 

Other departures include that of Ambassador Seong-Jin Kim, Korea’s consul general, whose successor has just been named. Young-jun Kim comes to Atlanta from a post heading up Korea’s Arctic affairs team in Seoul, but he’s no stranger to the Georgia capital: He earned a master’s in international politics from Georgia State University in 1995. 

Switzerland’s Andreas Maager, meanwhile, took up a post in South Africa and has been replaced by Peter Zimmerli

As in the case of Mr. Zimmerli, departures also mean arrivals, and this year brought new career diplomats to the state from Nigeria, Haiti, Canada, the Bahamas and Greece

Nadia Theodore, Canada’s appointee and a foreign ministry expert on trade policy, replaced Louise Blaise, who became ambassador to the United Nations after building a strong legacy that focused on raising the flag for women in business, boosting public diplomacy and advocating at the state level for strong bilateral economic ties in the face of NAFTA negotiations. The Quebec government, which has a separate office here, also named a new representative after the retirement of Louise Fortin. Donald LeBlanc, who also has a strong background on trade, took up the post in November. Mr. LeBlanc started his career in 1990 as a trade policy adviser on NAFTA negotiations.

Kayode Laro, Nigeria’s new appointee, filled a void left vacant for more than a year after the departure of Geoffrey Teneilabe last February

Mr. Laro, who is prioritizing agricultural and technology ties with Georgia and the many other states in his wide jurisdiction, praised the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s International VIP Tour, an annual trip that gives diplomats a broader view of the state. The visit to Middle Georgia peach farms and President Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains were instructive, he said. 

Honorary consuls, Georgia residents named to represent a country’s interests, also saw some new appointments to their ranks. 

Tom Rosseland, an attorney, replaced Mikael Norin as Sweden’s representative, while David Cutting stepped up officially as honorary consul for Barbados as Dr. Edward Layne retired.

Latvia named an entirely new honorary consul, news which Global Atlanta broke: In his first year, Kevin Casebier even hosted a visit by the ambassador for the Baltic nation, a key NATO ally and for Dublin, Ga., an indispensable corporate investor. Read how it all happened for Mr. Casebier in this story

Georgia Chief of Protocol Abby Turano, in a holiday message to the consular corps and other supporters, said that she’d be working to increase the state’s global awareness in 2018. 

“We will continue to share with our communities knowledge about international relations, protocol and how to tweak our fellow southerners’ natural predilection for hospitality to make Georgia’s foreign visitors and residents feel welcome. We will be grateful for your support in this venture.” 

She also cited the work of a Macon high schooler Alexander Nolan Smith, son of Honorary Consul of Denmark Chris Smith, who compiled a history of the consular corps in Georgia, tracing it back to the appointment of a British vice consul in Savannah in 1789. Read this Global Atlanta story for more information about the project. 

Global Atlanta’s Diplomatic Outreach

Global Atlanta in 2017 intensified its own outreach to local diplomats, whom we see as essential allies in telling the stories of Atlanta’s connections with the world, both here in town and when we travel abroad. (The network took on a special resonance for this reporter when Indian Consul General Nagesh Singh arranged a meeting for me with his counterpart at the Indian consulate in Shanghai in November.) 

We continued to publish the monthly Diplomacy newsletter, a compilation of stories each month tracking ambassador visits to Atlanta, new consular appointments and departures, policy issues and speeches and interviews by international affairs experts. The newsletter, which continues to be the one with the most audience engagement, is generously sponsored by the University of Georgia School of Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center. [Sign up here]

Many diplomats participated in our annual book review project, where we ask influential readers what their best book of the year was and why. (The new arrivals favored books on Atlanta’s history.) 

We also doubled down on Consular Conversations, a series of events to introduce local diplomats to our community of readers through a public interview during a small roundtable-style networking luncheon.

Sponsored by the law firm of Miller & Martin LLP, we welcomed 11 speakers throughout the year and have completed 14 events in the monthly series thus far. 

Next on the list? Bahamas Consul General Astra Armbrister-Rolle, who will be interviewed Jan. 17.  Tickets to that event can be purchased here. To follow will be Canada and Costa Rica in February and March, respectively. 

Read all Consular Conversations summaries here, or view by country: 

  1. Nigeria
  2. Peru
  3. Japan
  4. Switzerland
  5. El Salvador
  6. Germany
  7. United Kingdom
  8. Israel
  9. Canada
  10. Belgium
  11. Greece (to come) 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to name the new Korean consul general as well as the new head of the Quebec Government Office. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...