Diplomat named to be ambassador to Mongolia has ties to midstate

Home for Jonathan Addleton always has been Middle Georgia.

Sure, he was born in Pakistan when his parents were overseas doing missionary work. And now he’s finishing his duties as counselor for international development at the U.S. mission to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.

Next month, he’ll be sworn in as the new U.S. ambassador to Mongolia.

But the small street near the Jones County line where his parents still live, as did previous generations of his family, is still home.

“Even in this world, it’s nice to have some continuity,” said Addleton, who’s also the author of two books. “We’ve always looked at Macon as our family home.”

Still, that doesn’t mean Addleton isn’t looking forward to his assignment on the other side of the world.

Addleton, 52, has worked in the diplomatic service most of his adult life. He served previously in Mongolia from 2001-04 as the U.S. Agency for International Development mission director before moving on to the same posts in Cambodia and Pakistan. As part of USAID, he has also worked in Jordan, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Yemen.

It was his many years in the diplomatic service that helped lead to the new appointment. Though the process began during the administration of President George W. Bush, Addleton was nominated by President Obama and was recently confirmed by the Senate.

Now, the training begins.

Addleton and his wife, Fiona, will spend two weeks in Washington, D.C., to undergo training for his new duties.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Fiona Addleton, a native of Scotland. “I assume they will tell me something about protocol and how to deal with dignitaries.”

“The ambassador is essentially the representative of the president,” Jonathan Addleton said. “(The duties) cover the whole gamut. There are people relationships, cultural relationships, economic relationships — even the military training.”

Addleton said returning to Mongolia represents a great assignment.

“Just the possibility of going back was beyond my wildest dreams,” he said. “People were aware of the fact that I had been there before and that I was interested in going back.”

His parents’ home, where he and his family stay when they are stateside, is decorated with items from his last stint there, including paintings, a bow and a ceremonial hat.

The appeal, he said, is similar to the people who love to visit Montana.

“It’s just a wide-open country,” he said. “There are less than 3 million people, but the length of the country is roughly the distances from Washington, D.C., to Denver.”

Though Ulan Bator is known as the world’s coldest capital city, Addleton said, the Mongolians are an outdoorsy people, excelling in sports, from archery to horseback riding.

Mongolia, situated between Russia to the north and China to the south, used to be under communist rule until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early ’90s. While it still remains on reasonably good terms with both countries, Mongolia is working hard on its “third neighbor” policy, developing relationships with countries all over the world, including the United States, Addleton said.

Addleton, whose younger sister is Macon City Councilwoman Nancy White, said he developed his interest in other countries at an early age, thanks to the missionary work of his parents, Hubert and Bettie. An avid reader of newspapers and newsmagazines, Addleton initially embarked in a journalism career after graduating from the prestigious Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

He worked as an intern and briefly as a reporter at The Telegraph, but he decided he wanted to be more active in helping change the world. He has worked in foreign service since President Ronald Reagan’s time in office.

“Growing up with the work my parents did, I saw the poverty in the world,” he said. “Some of the choices I made had an impact on my life.”

It could be the same for Addleton’s three children.

His oldest son, Iain, is a freshman at Davidson College. Iain already has worked as an intern in the office of Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and as a volunteer in Obama’s presidential campaign.

“I guess he covers both sides of the aisle,” Jonathan Addleton said with a chuckle.

The Addletons’ middle son, Cameron, 16, is a junior at Mount de Sales Academy and will stay in Macon with his grandparents.

“In some ways, it will be difficult, because we are missing out on his everyday life,” Fiona Addleton said. “But he’s got a lot of friends here, his grandparents here, his soccer, a great support system.”

Their daughter, Catriona, 14, will accompany the couple to Mongolia and attend high school there.

“I’ve already lived there, so I expect it to be a good experience,” said Catriona, who will be attending the same international school she attended the first time she was there. “I like the scenery. The views are amazing.”

Since the typical service time for an ambassador is three years, Addleton said, he doesn’t know if Catriona will come back to Macon to finish high school or will stay in Mongolia for the duration of her high school career.

“(The kids) having stability for their 11th- and 12th-grade years is very important to us,” he said.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.