A U.S. diplomat

As told to Blake Ellis


Charlie Slater

Charlie Slater, 59, has spent the last 21 years working in U.S. embassies all over the world -- from Sierra Leone and Pakistan to Thailand and Ethiopia.

His latest post is Vienna, Austria, where he works as the Counselor for Management Affairs for the American Embassy. This fancy title means he is in charge of supporting three ambassadors and three deputy ambassadors, as well as managing a staff of 25 Americans and 125 Austrians.

Whether it's a homesick employee, medical emergency, construction project or a last-minute visit from a top government official like John Kerry, Slater's job is to make sure day-to-day operations at the embassy run smoothly.

Here are journal entries from a day in his life:

6:23 AM

Alarm! Winter cometh...wind is howling and it’s still dark outside. Lay in bed and start responding to emails that came from Washington and elsewhere overnight. But first...turn on the coffee machine.

6:50 AM

Emails done. Mostly more of the same...Washington wants a report on how many of our buildings are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning they are accessible to people with disabilities. Clients want to know why they weren't selected to be on the board that nominates government employees for awards (can everyone be selected? Hmmm).

Biggest news: my two security clearances are due for their renewal. That's a report of every place I have lived and traveled since birth...endless! Plus, tasking for a two-day schedule for our Director General's visit next week.

7:00 AM

Catch up on news, shower, then eat a quick breakfast at a local bakery.

Every day in Vienna starts with Viennese coffee, the world's best

8:12 AM

My 10-minute walk to the office includes traipsing by the beautiful Palais Liechtenstein, but my favorite landmark is the little, hidden Strudlhof Steps.

The Strudlhof Steps

8:21 AM

At my desk, ready for whatever the day brings.

The American Embassy in Vienna, Austria

8:45 AM

Meeting with my Deputy. We will soon have 40 newly constructed condominiums ready for occupancy, and my deputy and I need to put a plan in place to decide who on staff will live in these condos.

9:25 AM

Finish catching up with morning issues: the neighbor’s scaffolding fell onto one of our cars and an employee is having difficulties coping in Vienna so he may leave early (this required some counseling to get him to stick with it).

9:30 AM

Meeting with the Ambassador and some of the embassy’s other top officials to discuss upcoming events and speeches. One issue of importance is recent ISIL recruitment in Austria, though this is happening much less in Austria than other countries. Upcoming speeches are scheduled around Austria, mostly on trade and regional security issues unrelated to ISIL.

10:00 AM

Meeting with my Embassy Regional Psychiatrist to discuss overall post morale.

10:30 AM

Meeting with the bilateral Deputy Chief of Mission to discuss upcoming VIP visits and any management issues. We discussed the status of the new condominiums, as well as the building project for new offices for the U.S. Operation for Security and Cooperation in Europe Mission, which is a collection of 57 countries working together to address common issues.

Deputy Chief of Mission Lee Brudvig and I go over an upcoming event, new housing project

11:30 AM

Off to the 19th District to meet with our condominium developer.

12:00 PM

Meet with the developer’s senior rep; get a quick tour and update on construction and delivery times.

The senior developer’s rep, Gabriel, and me in one of our near-finished condo units

12:30 PM

Have lunch with the developer’s representative at a nearby new Middle Eastern restaurant. We discuss how the turnover and move in will be handled, then I’m off to a different construction site for a new office. Saving gas in our Embassy’s electric Volt!

2:00 PM

See the progress on the office space – and the terrific view of Vienna and the countryside.

4:30 PM

Back at my desk. Preparing for a Town Hall meeting with the U.S. embassy employees I am hosting next week. Reviewing the schedule for a VIP visit with the Acting Director General of the Foreign Service, who is also coming to visit next week.

4:40 PM

Just talked with our visits people, and we will be asked to support the visit for the U.S. Ambassador at Large for Foreign Fighters, from the Counterterrorism Office, in a few days. A hot topic with what is happening in Syria.

6:10 PM

Raining now…Time to run and catch a tram to the 19th District. I am to attend a German Embassy-hosted wine event at a very famous heuriger (a Viennese wine tavern) on the edge of Vienna.

Thank goodness for great public transport…the driving-drinking enforcement here is intense, and diplomatic immunity doesn’t (and shouldn’t!) cover this!

Germany's embassy event at the famous heuriger

7:00 PM

My primary contact from the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs arrives. We discuss an upcoming visit from some Department of State officials regarding residency guidelines, as well as Secretary Kerry’s recent visit.

8:00 PM

I join the table with my counterparts from the British Embassy and his wife, and my counterpart from the Norwegian Embassy, as well as a German businessman.

10:30 PM

After a little work, but a lot of enjoyment of great food and wine and company, I depart for home.

My European colleagues complete with violinist playing 'New York, New York'!

11:00 PM

Home at last, and into bed. Check that crackberry one last time and catch up on a few emails. Zzzzzzz…

**These are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government.**
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Published on February 25, 2015