Allan Katz was welcomed back to Tallahassee with open arms and lots of “your Excellency” jokes Monday night as he spoke about his work as United States Ambassador to Portugal, a job he took on in early 2010. The hour-and-a-half presentation was a fundraiser for The Village Square, an organization focused on building constructive dialogue and founded by Katz and Bill Law. “One of the things that makes the job so good is there are very few typical days,” said Katz, responding to a question by Mark Schlakman, senior program director for the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights.

Schlakman conducted a 30-minute interview before friends Mary Ann Lindley, Tallahassee Democrat editorial page editor; Andrew Gillum, city commissioner; and former State Rep. Loranne Ausley took the stage to join the conversation and question-and-answer period.

Questions from those both on and off stage ranged from the entertaining, such as Ausley’s question as to whether he’s found a running group yet, to the serious.

“Do you have a lot of discussions about trade between the United States and Portugal?” Lindley asked, to which he responded he does and that the U.S. already imports cork, textiles and rugs from the country.

As for running, he said he is pretty much stuck with security.

“I can get people to run with me, but the problem is they wouldn’t feel they had a choice,” he said. “What you miss the most are your friends. It’s very difficult to have people who you do things with outside of work because you are looked at differently.”

He also touched on Portugal’s love for the United States, their excellent racial and religious relations, what it has been like as the economy has faltered, and on the country’s use of renewable energy.

“It is a marvelous society of people who don’t have a lot but they embrace you in ways you don’t expect it,” he said.

Katz, a former a city commissioner, stopped by Tallahassee for a weeklong visit between work in Washington, D.C., and his son’s wedding in Chicago.

City Commissioner Gil Ziffer acted as the master of ceremonies.

“Anytime you can get an ambassador in town, it is a good learning experience,” said attendee Joe Sroka, 27.

Nearly 100 people attended the event, which was hosted at the Museum of Florida History.

The Village Square also will host the 2011 Florida Legislative Session Wrap tonight as part of its “Take-out Tuesday” series. A panel will take a look at “what happened” and “what it means” at the event, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 211 N. Monroe St.

Visit tothevillagesquare.org or call 264-8785 to learn more.

By Amanda Nalley. Read the full story online HERE.