Mattie R. Sharpless

The Honorable Mattie R. Sharpless, with 41 distinguished years of service in the Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), having attained the rank of Ambassador, retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in January 2006. From July 2003 to January 2006, she served as Special Adviser to USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary, Farm and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, where she worked to develop initiatives to harness science and technology to improve agricultural productivity in developing countries, with emphasis on Africa.

Ambassador Sharpless was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic on October 23, 2001, a position she held until June 2003. During her tenure in the Central African Republic, Ambassador Sharpless traveled widely to strengthen bilateral and political relations between the two countries. She was also privileged to have a school named in her honor while serving in Bangui, Central African Republic.

Prior to her Ambassadorial appointment, Ambassador Sharpless served as Acting Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). In this capacity, she was responsible for overseeing and administering programs to expand export opportunities for U.S. agricultural and forest products, and to promote food security worldwide. She managed some 1,000 employees and a budget of over $100 million, with staff in over 75 U.S. Embassies around the globe.

From July 1999 to January 2001, Ambassador Sharpless served as Special Envoy to Emerging Economies in the Foreign Agricultural Service. During this period, she focused on the development of new markets, with particular emphasis on USDA’s initiatives to strengthen the economic partnership with Sub-Saharan Africa and its integration into the world trading system.

Ambassador Sharpless has had a distinguished career in foreign agricultural trade relations, having served in a variety of positions in Washington and abroad since joining the Foreign Agricultural Service in 1965. Most notably, she served as Agricultural Minister-Counselor at the American Embassy in Paris, France from 1995- 1999; Agricultural Counselor in Rome, Italy; Agricultural Counselor in Bern, Switzerland; Agricultural Attaché at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium; and as Agricultural Assistant at the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, France from 1968-1973.

A native of Hampstead, North Carolina, Ambassador Sharpless holds a Masters in Business Administration and Economics from North Carolina Central University (NCCU), and a B.S. Degree in Business Education from North Carolina College, Durham, NC. She chairs NCCU’s External Advisory Board and serves on the Trade Advisory Committee on Africa at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. She participates in programs of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Kappa Sorority, Inc., and works with youth groups and humanitarian organizations reaching out to help strengthen their educational and economic capabilities. She has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the Presidential Meritorious Service Award, NCCU’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) Distinguished Alumni Award, among others.