WASHINGTON — Janet Reno, who has presided over a dramatic decline in youth violence and weathered controversy for refusing to seek an independent counsel to investigate campaign financing, has become the nation's second-longest-serving attorney general.
Although she is neither an old friend nor a confidant of President Clinton, who nominated her after two earlier choices withdrew in controversy, Reno tied the five-year, 10-month tenure of Homer Cummings on Sunday. When she next arrives at work, she will be alone in second place.
Reno, a former state prosecutor in Miami, was sworn in as attorney general March 12, 1993.
By passing Cummings, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first attorney general, Reno also became the longest-serving holder of the Cabinet post this century.
Among 78 attorneys general in the nation's history, Reno has held the post longer than anyone except William Wirt. Nominated by President Monroe and kept on by President Adams, Wirt served 11 years, three months, beginning in 1817.
Reno was typically unimpressed by her milestone.
"I don't think you judge people by how long they are here but by what they do," she said when asked about her tenure.
A nine-year explosion in teenage gun murders, driven by crack cocaine gangs, peaked in 1993 and has been in decline ever since. Academic experts credit Reno with playing a role in this because she has tirelessly traveled the nation appealing for more attention to youth crime and more resources for after-school supervision and activities for young people.