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Obama names the first woman to head the Secret Service

March 26, 2013|By Christi Parsons
  • Secret Service agent Julia Pierson, who has been named as the first female director of the Secret Service.
Secret Service agent Julia Pierson, who has been named as the first female… (U.S. Secret Service / Associated…)

WASHINGTON – President Obama on Tuesday named a high-ranking career employee of the U.S. Secret Service to become its first female director.

Julia A. Pierson, a veteran of the agency’s Miami and Orlando, Fla., field offices, serves as chief of staff of the law enforcement agency that is best known for protecting the U.S. president.

As Obama puts together his team for the second term, Pierson is the first woman he has appointed to head a national security agency. Obama faced some criticism when he named men to head three of the most high-profile departments:  the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA.

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He has, however, named a number of new female appointees, including Sally Jewell to head Interior, Gina McCarthy to be the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Mary Jo White to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission and Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be director of the Office of Management and Budget. And Pierson will answer to Janet Napolitano, who is staying on in her position as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

The agency Pierson will head has more than 150 offices throughout the United States and abroad. Created to combat counterfeiting of U.S. currency, the agency now also protects national and visiting foreign leaders, secures national sites and events, and conducts related criminal investigations.

In announcing her appointment, Obama cited Pierson's more than 30 years of experience with the Secret Service and her leadership roles in protective operations, human resources and training.

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“Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own,” Obama said.

The appointment to head the agency, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, does not have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, according to an agency spokesman.

A former Orlando police officer, Pierson joined the Secret Service in 1983 as a special agent in Miami. She later became deputy director in charge of protective operations before rising through the ranks to her current position, according to a news release from the White House.

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

Twitter: @cparsons

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