STA, 18 July 2019 - Lynda Blanchard was endorsed the new US ambassador to Slovenia by the US Senate on Thursday, more than a year after being nominated by President Donald Trump.
An entrepreneur and humanitarian activist from Alabama, Blanchard was endorsed by 54 votes in favour and 40 against.
Among those voting against was Amy Klobuchar, a senator of Slovenian descent from Minnesota, who is running for the Democratic nomination for US president in the 2020 election.
Nominated by Trump in June 2018, Blanchard was endorsed by the Senate committee on foreign relations in September, but her appointment was held up by procedural obstacles related to the election of the new US Congress.
Because the Senate did not confirm her appointment by the end of last year, her candidacy was automatically returned to the White House in accordance with the rules of procedure.
The White House submitted the nomination again on 18 January, and the Senate committee on foreign relations referred the nomination for a Senate vote without a new hearing.
In her hearing on the committee in August 2018, Blanchard described Slovenia as "a reliable US partner" and "a regional leader in implementing democratic reforms" in the Balkans.
She pledged to encourage privatisation, noting that 50% of the Slovenian economy was "under state ownership or control", which entailed "opportunities for increased private investment".
Blanchard argued that US-Slovenian relations needed to continue to improve "through direct outreach and engagement with Slovenian people".
Blanchard succeeds Ambassador Brent Hartley, a career diplomat who served in Ljubljana between February 2015 and July 2018.
Since then, the US Embassy in Ljubljana has been headed by charge d'affaires. Gautam Rana, who was in charge initially, was replaced by Susan K. Falatko in June.
It is not clear yet when Blanchard may be expected in Slovenia, but unofficial information indicates that she will first visit the Slovenian Embassy in Washington.
The State Department said that Blanchard would not be giving any interviews before she presented her credentials to the Slovenian president.
Blanchard and her husband John, a property mogul from Alabama, have made donations to Republican party presidential candidates, including Trump.
Blanchard is a co-founder of the development foundation 100X, which is looking for creative solutions for the elimination of poverty and improving lives of children around the world.
She has also co-founded the real estate investment management company B&M, where she currently works as a senior advisor.
As part of her work in the 100X foundation, Blanchard has been active in Africa, Asia and South America, helping open orphanages and food production companies and managing sustainable development programmes.
Having been an advocate of people with special needs for almost 20 years, she has volunteered in NGO committees and supported numerous educational programmes in Alabama. She has also helped families interested in adopting children.
Lynda "Lindy" Blanchard is the mother of seven children, of which four she adopted abroad. She has a degree in mathematics and computer science from Auburn University.
Blanchard not being a career diplomat is seen as an indication that the US considers Slovenia a non-problematic, allied country.