Julia Pierson is Appointed First Woman to Lead U.S. Secret Service

Mike O'Brien

The Secret Service has a new female leader for the first time in its 148-year-old history.

President Obama appointed Julia Pierson on Tuesday to lead the agency, which traditionally has enjoyed a macho image of men in dark suits and sunglasses.

Ms. Pierson, 53, is a veteran agent and will be responsible for the safety of Mr. Obama and his family, the vice-president and other leading political figures.

She replaces Mark Sullivan, who retired last month after leading the agency for seven years. He faced considerable criticism in Washington last year over a prostitution scandal involving several Secret Service agents.

The agents, who were part of an advance team preparing for the President’s arrival in Cartagena, Colombia, took prostitutes back to the hotel where they were staying.

Mr. Sullivan publicly apologized, but said the President’s safety was never put at risk. However, the incident did damage the reputation of the agency and threw a spotlight on the macho culture that is thought to run deep within the service.

In announcing Ms. Pierson’s promotion, Mr. Obama said: "Over her 30 years of experience with the Secret Service, Julia has consistently exemplified the spirit and dedication the men and women of the service demonstrate every day.

"Julia has had an exemplary career, and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency.

"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."

Ms. Pierson, who is a native of Orlando, graduated from the University of Central Florida, and began her career as a police officer in Orlando in 1980. Three years later she joined the Secret Service in Miami and has since spent most of her career in the Sunshine State.

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