Gary and Mona Locke at last year’s Gridiron Dinner. (Richard A. Lipski for The Washington Post)

There’s chatter there — and stateside, too — that Mona Locke, wife of Ambassador Gary Locke, isn’t being utilized as well as she could. The ambassador’s wife, after all, is so wildly popular that she’s often referred to as her husband’s none-too-secret weapon. For more evidence of her star power, check out the spread in Vogue magazine this month headlined “The Toast of Beijing.”

Despite her popularity, we hear that the former TV journalist has gone relatively untapped as a resource. She could (and is willing to), we hear, take on a heftier schedule of public speaking and meetings, effectively doubling the U.S. ambassadorial power in Beijing.

So why hasn’t she been given more leeway to do just that? Maybe the career types think it’s best to leave diplomacy to the professionals. That’s one theory, at least.

A State Department official told us there’s no prohibition against embassy spouses (who are most often wives) playing a “first lady” role in-country. And an embassy spokesman outlined to The Loop some of her recent work: promoting the president’s “100K Strong” initiative aimed at bringing more American students to study in China and supporting a global effort to promote leadership among women and girls.

Still, we hear she’s told friends that she’s absolutely willing (“chomping at the bit,” in fact, according to one) to do more.