Obama nominates Gitenstein

Published 11:59 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate a Florala native and nine others for key ambassadorship positions around the world.

Mark Gitenstein, son of Florala businessman Seymour Gitenstein and his wife, Anna, has been asked by Obama to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Romania.

In a prepared statement, Obama said, “Americans will be fortunate to have these distinguished men and women as their representatives abroad. Their talent, experience, and dedication will be invaluable as we continue to strengthen America’s partnerships around the world and confront the challenges of the 21st century. I am grateful for their service and look forward to working with each of them.”

It is the latest accomplishment for Gitenstein, who made recent local headlines as an advisor for Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“I am really flattered to be asked by President Obama to take on this assignment,” Gitenstein said. “It’s not only an important national security assignment to undertake, as Romania is an important ally to the U.S., but also if I am confirmed, I will be in a sense returning to the home of my forefathers.”

Gitenstein explained that his paternal grandfather, Israel Gitenstein or “Mr. G” as he was known to Florala residents, emigrated to the U.S. from Moldova, which was at one time part of Romania. His grandmother’s parents were from Romania. Gitenstein said “Mr. G,” started Florala’s Franklin Ferguson sewing factories. His parents later assumed operation of the business.

While Gitenstein’s nomination has not been formalized, the announcement is expected sometime next week. It will take a confirmation by the Senate to officially name Gitenstein to the post.

The Gitenstein name is well known to the people of Covington County. The family is credited with establishing the Florala Memorial Hospital and has touched countless lives through scholarships and philanthropic donations.

Mark Gitenstein lived in Florala until the age of 14 before moving to Birmingham to complete high school. He attended Duke University and later earned a law degree from Georgetown University.

Currently, he is a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in issues related to national security and civil liberties. He is also a partner at the Washington office of the multi-national firm Mayer Brown LLP. Prior to his work at Mayer Brown, he was the executive director of The Foundation for Change Inc.

Previously, he worked as a Senate staff member for 17 years — both in Sen. Biden’s personal office, and then as chief counsel with the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is the author of Matters of Principle, an award-winning book on his experience managing the Judiciary Committee staff during the confirmation battle over the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987.