Former Kenai resident joins foreign service

Joel Kopp, family prepare to move to Monterrey, Mexico, for job at U.S. embassy

Posted: Monday, June 10, 2002

Joel Kopp has called many places home, from Kenai and Valdez to Seattle and Washington, D.C. In December, he will add Monterrey, Mexico, to the list.

Kopp was recently sworn in as a foreign service officer for the diplomatic corps of the U.S. State Department.

He and his wife Ginger are in language training, and in December the couple and their three sons, ages 4 to 9, will move to Mexico where Kopp will work in the U.S. Embassy.

Kopp grew up in the Kenai-Soldotna area, where much of his family -- including mother Barbara Ruckman, father Chuck Crapuchettes, brother Chuck Kopp and sister Amiel Severson -- still live.

He went to college at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and returned to Kenai for a while before taking a job as a project manager for the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council in Valdez. He spent four years in Valdez, then headed to Seattle to work on a master's degree at the University of Washington.

It was there that he first learned about the foreign service. He knew another Alaskan who worked for the State Department and the written exam for the foreign service was being offered on campus.

"I though I'd try," Kopp said. "I didn't have anything to lose."

The all-day exam tests a person's knowledge of U.S. history, government and American culture and use of the English language.

When he passed, Kopp went on to take the oral exam, another all-day test that puts applicants in role-playing situations and interviews.

Finally, after a medical exam and background check, Kopp was added to the waiting list for an embassy job.

Once one opened, he spent six-weeks in orientation training for a new career.

On April 26, he was sworn in by Secretary of State Colin Powell, reciting the oath of office written when Thomas Jefferson became the country's first Secretary of State under George Washington.

"It's kind of like the military -- you move around every three years or so," Kopp said. "You start in country X, then country Y, and once in a while you go back to (Washington) D.C. for a tour in the state department."

For Kopp, country X is Mexico. He will join the embassy staff about two-and-a-half hours south of the Texas border, in Monterrey, Mexico.

The city is home to about 1 million people, serves as one of Mexico's biggest business centers and recently hosted an economic summit attended by Powell and President George W. Bush.

"It's a great career if you don't mind living overseas," Kopp said.

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