Ambassador to Mauritania: Who Is Jo Ellen Powell?

Saturday, February 05, 2011
Nominated on July 15, 2010, to be the U.S. ambassador desert country of Mauritania and confirmed on October 10, 2010, Jo Ellen Powell, a career member of the Foreign Service, grew up in a Foreign Service family, living in Panama, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, India, Iran, and Laos. Her father, John Millard Powell, oversaw embassy management and logistical support.
Powell earned her B.A. from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and joined the State Department in 1976 as a civil servant, working in the Passport Office, the Bureau of Personnel and the Foreign Service Institute. She joined the Foreign Service in January 1980 and was posted to Amman, Jordan, in September 1980. In June 1982, she came back to Washington to serve in the State Department’s Operations Center. In June 1983, she returned to the Middle East as an Economic-Commercial Officer in Beirut, Lebanon. From 1985 to 1989, she was a General Services Officer at Rome, Italy, and then served as a post management officer in the European Bureau Executive Office from 1989 to 1991, and as Supervisory General Services Officer at Paris, France, from 1992 to 1995.
She returned to the European Bureau Executive Office, where she served as Supervisory Post Management Officer for one year prior to being selected to serve as the Deputy Executive Director of the Executive Secretariat, Office of the Secretary. In 1998 she was assigned to the US Embassy in Canberra, Australia, as Management Counselor. She returned to the Department in 2001, serving as Director of the Office of Employee Relations in the Human Resources Bureau from 2001 to 2004, and as Executive Director of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2004-2006. Her last assignment prior to being named ambassador to Mauritania was as Consul General at the US Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, from 2006 to 2009. 
Powell speaks French, German, and Italian, and has studied Arabic. She has been married since 1982 to Stephen Engelken, also a career Foreign Service Officer. They have one son, John.
- Matt Bewig


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