U.S. Ambassador with ties to Summit County will begin assignment in Papua New Guinea
A woman with family ties to Summit County will soon begin her journey to the Melanesian Islands as part of her next assignment. U.S. Ambassador Cassy Ebert-Gray — one of the 32 percent of U.S. ambassadors whom are women — will be stationed in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea for three years, also serving in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
The move will be a natural fit, as Ebert-Gray has spent more than half of her career in the South Pacific region since entering the Foreign Service in 1988. With a background of diplomacy in several countries — the Philippines, Mali, Togo, Australia and Egypt to name a few — Ebert-Gray is prepared for whatever may come.
“They have a lot of potential that they can continue to have a stable democracy,” Ebert-Gray said of Papua New Guinea. “Still, it’s not going to be easy, there are definitely challenges there.”
During her assignment, Ebert-Gray will help host the FIFA U-20 women’s soccer cup next fall, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 2018. She will also support women’s health initiatives to reduce rates of cervical cancer and HIV.
Challenges aside, she looks forward to spending time in all three countries, and taking in their diverse landscapes and cultures. While English and a form of Pidgin are commonly spoken throughout the region, the area still has an estimated 800 tribal languages.
“They have incredible natural resources in Papua New Guinea,” Ebert-Gray said. “The reason it hasn’t been totally exploited is there are so many issues of tribal land ownership.”
She also has one special connection to the country — it was where she met her husband 25 years ago. The two were married at St. John the Baptist church in Breckenridge, with much of her family, including a brother and sister, currently residing in Summit County.
“I first started going on ski trips when I was in high school,” Ebert-Gray said. “As my family started to put down roots, I started to pursue work with the Foreign Service.”
Born in Wisconsin, her family gradually moved out to Summit, one-by-one. Her sister, Christine Ebert, formed her own Frisco-based medical practice, while her brother, Fred Ebert, moved out in the late ‘70s to start an appraisal service, joined by Robert Ebert.
In the meantime, Ebert-Gray followed her lifelong goal of serving as a diplomat.
“I very slowly moved up the ladder,” she said. “I told myself, this is the brass ring of diplomacy, and I’m going to go for it.”
While stationed in Papua New Guinea, Ebert-Gray will be closer to her husband’s side of the family in Australia, but expects to see much of her adventure-seeking family from the U.S.
“They come, and we go hiking kayaking, or whatever they have to offer in that area of the world,” Ebert-Gray said.
Sworn in last Friday, Jan. 22, Ebert-Gray will depart for Port Moresby in early February. Her husband will join her, as well as their 22-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter.
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