Bringing 30 years of diplomatic and management skills proven most recently as U.S. ambassador to Panama, Linda E. Watt of Utah has been named new chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church.
The Church's Executive Council, meeting in Chicago November 15, confirmed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's appointment of Watt to this position, officially known as executive director of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS).
In this capacity, Watt, 55, succeeds Patricia C. Mordecai as vice president of the DFMS, the principal management corporation of the Episcopal Church and its chief legislative body, the General Convention. Mordecai will retire at year-end after more than eight years in this role.
Set to begin work officially in January, Watt will serve as chief operating officer at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City, where she will assist in overseeing the 200-member staff based in newly renovated offices located two blocks west of the United Nations.
"My sense is that Linda is going to be an ambassador of Good News we are all called to share," Jefferts Schori said, citing Watt's "enormous skill in managing operations and personnel in challenging locations around the world."
The Presiding Bishop further underscored Watt's "culturally bilingual" skills including fluency in Spanish and "her strong interest in social justice" consonant with the Episcopal Church's current top ministry priority of peace and justice work framed by the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.
While ambassador to Panama from 2002-2005, Watt led an embassy staff of 386 American and Panamanian employees, plus 130 Peace Corps volunteers. There she guided operations in which U.S. staff represented 21 government agencies, and she oversaw an annual program budget of more than $40 million -- comparable to the DFMS's $152 million triennial budget.
As ambassador, Watt "represented the U.S. people as well as the government," she said.
She "formulated and implemented U.S. policy toward Panama, emphasizing interests concerning the Panama Canal, as well as supporting U.S. business and improving the U.S. image."
She established an innovative "People-to-People" program "to link U.S. and Panamanian non-governmental organizations, including religious, civic, and academic institutions."
Watt served from 1997 to 1999 as acting U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, where she later served as deputy chief of mission. From 1993 to 1995 she was management officer of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and its three consulates, managing financial operations, human resources, community relations, maintenance, housing, contracting, travel, and related services for more than 1,000 employees plus family members. She also served in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and England.
Watt is a vestry member of Grace Church in St. George, Utah, and a resident of nearby Ivins. She is one of two Utah representatives of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, and a board member of ProMujer, a non-profit microlending organization assisting women in Latin America.
Watt grew up in Atlanta and has been a parishioner and choir singer in various congregations, including St. Anne's in Reston, Virginia, and Epiphany, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
"I am greatly honored that Bishop Katharine has selected me for this important position," Watt said in a telephone interview. "I look forward with enthusiasm to working with her, the Executive Council, the staff of the Episcopal Church Center, and the clergy and members of the Church as we seek to implement Christ's vision of abundant life and joy, to grow our Church, and to secure peace and justice."
Born in 1951 in Tokyo where her father was a U.S. Army lawyer, Watt is married to Leo Duncan and has two adult children, Tom Crosby, 25, and Laurie Crosby, 23, both of Florida.
Watt was identified by a search committee chaired by the Rev. Canon Robert Nelson, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Nevada and a former executive with the U.S. Department of Energy. Other committee members included: Diocesan Bishop David Alvarez of Puerto Rico; House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson; Vincent Currie Jr., administrator of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast; the Rev. Canon Carlson Gerdau, canon to the Primate and Presiding Bishop; the Rev. Gay C. Jennings, associate director of CREDO Institute Inc.; and Bishop Suffragan Chester L. Talton of Los Angeles.
"I give abundant thanks for the expertise and careful work of these committee members," the Presiding Bishop said.
"I am deeply impressed by the gifts of all the people who were interested in serving," Jefferts Schori added. "In considering the candidates, the committee faced a difficult decision because it was blessed with the applications of so many gifted people."