The Foreign Service Journal, December 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2023 53 AFSA Achievement and Contributions to the Association Award Ken Kero-Mentz Defending the Diplomats Defending Our Country During a decade and a half of active engagement with AFSA, Ken Kero-Mentz made significant contributions to the association both in its role as the professional association for U.S. career diplomats and as the labor union representing Foreign Service members. “I’ve always believed in trying to make the State Department the best place to work for everyone, and especially those of us in the Foreign Service, where ‘work’ is a 24/7 kind of thing,” said Kero-Mentz. “AFSA has been the best place to bring my energy, enthusiasm, and ideas to fruit. We are so fortunate to have AFSA on our side.” Between 2006 and 2009, Kero-Mentz served as a volunteer AFSA post representative at U.S. Embassy Berlin, assisting members with questions and guiding them to find appropriate resources within the department or within AFSA. He also advocated for his colleagues in discussions with post management. AFSA recognized his efforts by naming him AFSA Post Rep of the Year in 2009. Between 2011 and 2015, Kero-Mentz served two terms as an elected State representative on the AFSA Governing Board. He served on several AFSA committees and represented AFSA in meetings on Capitol Hill and with State Department leadership as well as in discussions with journalists and outside organizations. “It gave me tremendous insight into the inner workings of AFSA, the professional association, and AFSA, the union,” Kero-Mentz told the FSJ. “I also saw how AFSA can work in partnership with the various employee organizations, like glifaa, Working in Tandem, Balancing Act, and others, to further our joint goals of making the State Department the best place to work in Washington and around the world.” Kero-Mentz then served as AFSA State vice president from 2017 to 2019, acting as lead negotiator for AFSA’s largest constituency and overseeing AFSA’s 10-member Labor Management staff of attorneys and counselors. Serving during the chaotic first two years of the Trump administration, Kero-Mentz fought to protect Foreign Service (FS) members, fought against proposals to slash the size of the Foreign Service, and worked to maintain employee benefits. He helped convince the State Department to improve its treatment of FS families with special needs children and helped secure additional treatment and assistance for employees suffering from unexplained health incidents in Cuba and China. He negotiated the first new union-management Framework Agreement with the State Department since 1987. He served on the Governing Board committee that proposed substantial revisions to the AFSA Bylaws, which the AFSA membership overwhelmingly approved. He remembers fondly working so closely with a devoted team of AFSA employees, noting that “across the board, our members should know how fortunate we are to have folks at AFSA working every day to further AFSA’s goals—which of course are your goals.” From 2019 to 2021, Kero-Mentz served as the AFSA secretary on the Governing Board. During these tense final two years of the Trump administration and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he chaired the AFSA Legal Defense Fund Committee as it rose to the historic occasion of assisting the dozen AFSA members called to testify during the 2019 Trump impeachment hearings. Ken Kero-Mentz. Ken Kero-Mentz delivering remarks at U.S. Embassy Lisbon’s Pride Reception in 2021. GREG KUBIAK