Meet President Joe Biden's Nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines

Get to Know MaryKay Loss Carlson.

A career diplomat who has been a foreign service officer for nearly 30 years might just be the next American ambassador to the Philippines. U.S. President Joe Biden has nominated MaryKay Carlson to the position, succeeding former Ambassador Sung Kim, who completed his four-year tour of duty in the country in October 2020. The announcement was posted on the White House website

Carlson currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

According to the short bio attached to the White House announcement, Carlson previously worked as Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi, India for three years, including a ten-month stint as Chargé d’Affaires. Prior to that, she held the position of Principal Deputy Executive Secretary on the staff of the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C.

Carlson has been with the foreign service since 1985 and has served at American diplomatic missions in China (twice), Ukraine, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Kenya, and the Dominican Republic. Her domestic assignments include Director of the Secretary’s Executive Secretariat Staff and Deputy Director of Korean Affairs. Carlson has received numerous performance awards, including six Superior Honor Awards.

In the absence of an official ambassador, the U.S.’s current Chargé d’Affaires in the country is Heather Variava, who succeeded John Law in September 2020.

Carlson is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas and has a Bachelor’s Degree from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and holds Master’s Degrees from Georgetown University and the National War College. She speaks Spanish and Chinese. She is married to retired Foreign Service officer Aubrey Carlson, and they have two daughters.


In an interview with the Rhodes College website in 2019, Caarlson said, “The biggest lesson I learned is the need to treat each applicant with respect. Consular officers are the face of the United States, and how we treat applicants, even those who don’t qualify for visas, matters.”

Simultaneous with Carlson’s nomination, the White House also announced two other nominations to key posts in the Biden administration: Reuben Brigety as nominee for ambassador South Africa; and Elizabeth Shortino as nominee for U.S. executive director of the International Monetary Fund.

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