The designation of “Honorary Consul” might seem like a formality -- nominal in nature, an arcane diplomatic convention. However, Jonathon Tichy, Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic in Salt Lake City, thinks the title can be misleading: there is real, substantive work that goes into building relationships that connect Utah to the nations of the world. “It’s not just a fancy name to give somebody who’s been supportive of another country,” he explains. “It has substance to it.”
Originally from Utah County, Tichy grew up in Orem and graduated from Orem High School. In college, an international focus drove his studies: he has a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in public policy with an emphasis in international trade and foreign policy from BYU. After graduating with his Masters, Tichy leveraged his global savvy as a special State Department appointee stationed at the American Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic.
Tichy is of Czech descent, and he cites his family as his main connection to the country -- cousins and relatives still live in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. His in-country experience began with an LDS mission in the early 1990s followed by a year of work and graduate studies. Including his State Department assignment, Tichy has spent nearly eight years in the country.
While on State Department assignment in Prague, he worked as a political and economic advisor and senior staff aide (Chief-of-Staff) to the ambassador, assisting in speech writing and policy development and acting as a liaison to senior government officials at a critical time in Czech history. “Back in the 90s,” he remembers, “when a lot of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were in the process of transitioning to democracy, there was a lot of activity going on -- we were trying to be supportive of the democratic forces in those countries and make sure that they could take root and build a firm foundation for the future.”
After finishing his State Department appointment in 2000, Tichy had plans of returning to the Foreign Service and continuing to work overseas. But sometimes, he noted, “life just kind of has a funny way of sending you in another direction.” Instead, Tichy decided to attend law school at BYU and then enter the job market, working as an international lawyer in Las Vegas and then in Salt Lake City. After a 13-year stint at a large firm in downtown Salt Lake City where he was head of the international and government relations practice group, Tichy went independent and now operates his own international firm, Envoy Legal and Consulting International.
As for his consular duties, Tichy feels his experience in international matters gave him a solid foundation for performing his consular duties. In 2008, Tichy helped organize a visit to Utah for the Czech Ambassador to the UN. During that visit, he remembers, “[the ambassador] realized how dynamic Utah was and came to believe that it would make sense for the Czech Republic to establish an honorary consulate here.” Shortly after the visit, Tichy was invited to begin the process of accreditation as the Honorary Consul and was officially installed in May 2010. Now, nearly a decade in to his services, he defines his responsibilities with a helpful acronym. The duties of an Honorary Consul, he says, can be explained by the “Three Cs”: Consular, Cultural and Commercial.
As a consular officer, Tichy assists Czech citizens in emergency situations. Whether it’s a lost passport, an injury, or legal trouble, the consul can help Czech citizens get the help they need and can replace and authenticate documents and work with local law enforcement and others. “The idea is to be that safety net for the Czech community, whether they are people who are living and working here, or people who are just visiting,” Tichy says. “My job is just to make sure that their rights are protected and observed and that they’re treated fairly in accordance with the law or to help them get any critical assistance they need while they are in Utah.”
It’s not all crisis mitigation and paperwork, though. Tichy also works closely with Utah’s vibrant Czech community to support cultural outreach and other activities throughout the state. From a successful Czech language school to a traditional annual Saint Nicholas program, Tichy helps to “promote the good name of the Czech Republic here in Utah.”
A highlight of this cultural outreach is the “Czech That Film” Festival, a travelling event that brings contemporary Czech films and award-winning directors to select venues around North America. The festival has been screening annually in Salt Lake City since 2011 and drawing enthusiastic audiences from both within and outside the Czech community. Tichy sees the festival as an important mark of a strong community. “When we started that program,” Tichy says, “they took the film tour to New York, Los Angeles, and a couple of other bigger cities. They didn’t really think a city the size of Salt Lake would be able to garner much interest in it.” This assumption, of course, was incorrect: Salt Lake has been one of the top cities every single year of the tour in terms of audience participation.
Finally, in the commercial sphere, Tichy looks for opportunities to promote trade between the Czech Republic and Utah by facilitating contacts and connections between Utah and Czech businesses. It’s a case, Tichy feels, that is not very hard to make: “When I deal with or consult with Czech companies or the Czech government,” he says, “I can talk about all of the great things happening in Utah, in terms of our strong economy, our hardworking people. I can get them interested in taking a serious look at Utah as a place where they might want to focus more resources and efforts or maybe expand their business. They see it as a good place to be when they come to America.”
Above all, Tichy sees the recognition of Honorary Consuls as an affirmation of Utah’s strengths. “Choosing to appoint an Honorary Consul in a state like Utah is basically a manifestation of the importance that country places on Utah as a strategic interest,” he explains. “They’re recognizing that Utah is a place where great things are happening, where there’s momentum. It's a credit to the state to have a consular corps that has as many members as it does.”