Donald Tapia: What you should know about Jamaica’s newest US Ambassador

Donald Tapia, US Ambassador to Jamaica (Photo contributed, Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, Illinois)

The nomination of Donald Ray Tapia as US Ambassador to Jamaica has now been confirmed by the US Senate.

Tapia, who is 81, has said that he wants to pay particular attention to Jamaica’s energy sector. His predecessor, Luis Moreno oversaw US investment of over US$1 billion in Jamaica during his tenure.

Here’s what you need to know about the inspirational and mercurial Donald Ray Tapia:

1. Donald is a businessman who hails from Detroit.

2. He once said in an interview: “I am the American dream who made it from the slums of Detroit to Paradise Valley. It was a hell of a ride from a one-bedroom flat with a Murphy bed shared by my mother and sister while I slept on a couch; a father who disappears; and a mother who’s strapped to make the rent and feed my sister and I. I used to tell people we had a lot – a lot of potato soup with very little potatoes.”

3. He is a US Air Force veteran.

4. He moved to Arizona where he ran a successful business selling wires, tools, and equipment for the construction industry.

5. “If you are going to run a business, you need to know about finance,” he once declared.

6. Donald Tapia’s mantra is, “There is no try, only do.”

7. He was the Chairman and CEO of the Essco Group Management for over 30 years.

8. “I ran Essco for 25 years without a degree. Nobody knew the difference because I understood the business and I could talk to presidents of companies without any intimidation. Nobody ever intimidated me. That’s the main thing.”

9. With his granddaughter graduating and always stressing upon the value of an education, he decided at the age of 62 to sign up for a degree course. He then did his Master’s in Business Administration in 2007.

10. He graduated from Saint Leo University where he has a US$12 million, 47,921 square foot business school named after him, “The Donald R. Tapia School of Business.”

The Donald Tapia School of Business (Photo contributed, Lunz Group)

11. “Never forget where you come from, but never look back. There are a lot of people who know my name, but they’ve never met me. I was the largest Hispanic business owner in the state of Arizona,” he once said.

12. He is a big Donald Trump supporter and has been seen at one of his rallies with a “Make America Great Again” hat. He is a big contributor to Trump’s political efforts and a large donor to the Republican Party.

Donald Tapia (Photo contributed,

13. Donald Tapia is known for his philanthropic generosity, donating millions to various charities.

14. “Politics is interesting to me and good government,” said Tapia. He is reported to have described himself as a fiscal conservative with moderate social leanings.

15. “Growing up in a very destitute area of Detroit, Michigan, I never would have imagined that I would one day appear before the distinguished Members of this Committee seeking ambassadorial confirmation,” Tapia, speaking to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations July 31, 2018.

16. When asked if he had dreamed of winning the Masters, Tapia said, “I never had a dream go this far, so I can’t really say it’s a dream come true,”

17. Addressing natural disasters in Jamaica, Donald Tapia said: “Jamaica is subject to extreme weather events including hurricanes, storms, flooding and earthquakes that lead to losses in capital stock and investments. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) helped strengthen a system for developing, financing and executing sustainable climate adoption approaches in the region. If confirmed, I will support and work with the Jamaican government to strengthen its preparedness for and resilience to severe weather events.”

Donald Tapia (Photo contributed, Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, Illinois)

18. On good fortune, he said: “You’ve heard about having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? I had to have a flock of angels because they had to do shift work.”

So how would Tapia like to be remembered?

“I’d like to be remembered as someone who always spoke his mind, even if it wasn’t politically correct. I want to be remembered as the one who defied all the naysayers in my life and actually made something of himself. I want to be remembered as the person who is proud to have grown up in the slums of Detroit and yet was able to build something out of nothing,” noted Donald Tapia.

“I want to be that role model for today’s young people who says yes, you can make it if you have a dream and the will to get there. And, finally, I want to be remembered as that person who never forgot where they came from, what it was like and that giving back to those less fortunate fulfills a personal need to share the good fortune he’s had” he added.