Ambassador of the United States to Bulgaria
Kenneth Merten holds the rank of Career Minister at the United States Department of State. Prior to being nominated as Ambassador to Bulgaria in June 2022, Mr. Merten served as Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti for six months. From January 2019 to January 2021 Kenneth Merten was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM), Office of the Director General. He held the responsibilities of Acting Director General of the Foreign Service from January 2021 to October 2021.
Prior to joining GTM, Mr. Merten served in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs from August 2015 through January 2019. From January 2017 until November 2017, he was the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, with responsibility for Haiti, Canada, Caribbean Affairs and the Office of Policy, Planning and Coordination in the same Bureau. A two-time Ambassador, he was the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, from 2012 to August 2015, and prior to that served as the United States Ambassador to Haiti from 2009 to July 2012. He also served as a Deputy Executive Secretary to U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and earlier to U.S. Secretary of State Rice. He was awarded the 2011 Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy for his extraordinary leadership in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In serving as Ambassador to Haiti, Mr. Merten oversaw the United States Government’s on-the-ground efforts to provide immediate relief after the earthquake through a presence of 8,000 U.S. military personnel as well as hundreds of other professionals drawn from many other U.S. Government agencies including the U.S. Agency for International Development. In the days after the earthquake, he also oversaw the largest evacuation of American citizens since World War II.
Mr. Merten’s overseas assignments include the U.S. Embassy in Paris, the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, the U.S. Embassy in Bonn at the time of German unification, and three tours at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Mr. Merten’s Washington experience includes two assignments in the State Department Operations Center, which responds to unfolding international emergencies, ensures senior State Department officials are kept abreast of breaking events, and supports the daily work and travel of the Secretary of State. He also has served in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and on the Cuba Desk and worked for the Special Advisors on Haiti in 1993-1994.
Kenneth Merten holds a B.A. from Miami University in Ohio, and a Masters in Public Administration from American University in Washington, DC. Studies at the Université d’Aix-Marseille in France and at Karl Franzens Universitaet in Austria complement his other academic work. He gave the commencement address to over 10,000 attendees at Miami University in May 2010 and received an honorary Doctorate from the University as well. In July 2012, Ambassador Merten was decorated by Haiti’s President with the Grande Croix of Honor and Merit, the fourth foreign diplomat to receive that honor in over 200 years of Haiti’s independence. In January 2018 Mr. Merten was awarded the Shandling Humanitarian Award by Sean Penn and his relief organization, CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), for his work in Haiti. Also in 2018, Mr. Merten was recognized by Walsh Jesuit High School, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio as its first Distinguished Alumnus.
Ambassador Merten was born in St. Louis, Missouri and considers Hudson, Ohio his hometown.