WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Tuesday named veteran Secret Service agent Julia Pierson as the agency's first female director, signaling his desire to change the culture at the male-dominated service, which has been marred by scandal.
Pierson, who most recently served as the agency's chief of staff, will take over from Mark Sullivan, who announced his retirement last month. The agency faced intense criticism during Sullivan's tenure for a prostitution scandal during preparations for Obama's trip to Cartagena, Colombia, last year.
The incident raised questions within the agency - as well as at the White House and on Capitol Hill - about the culture, particularly during foreign travel. In addition to protecting the president, the Secret Service also investigates financial crimes.
"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," Obama said in a statement announcing Pierson's appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation.
At the Secret Service, Pierson has served as deputy assistant director of the office of protective operations, assistant director of human resources and training and chief of staff. She started in 1983 as a special agent in Miami. Before that, she was a police officer in Orlando, Fla.
"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. "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."
Thirteen Secret Service employees were caught up in last year's prostitution scandal. After a night of heavy partying in the Caribbean resort city of Cartagena, the employees brought women, including prostitutes, to the hotel where they were staying. The incident became public after one agent refused to pay a prostitute and the pair argued about payment in a hotel hallway.
Eight of the employees were forced out of the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct and at least two have been fighting to get their jobs back.
The incident took place before Obama arrived in Colombia and the service said the president's safety was never compromised. But news of the scandal broke during his trip, overshadowing the summit and embarrassing the U.S. delegation.
Sullivan issued a new code of conduct that bans employees from drinking within 10 hours of starting a shift or bringing foreign nationals back to their hotel rooms.
Sullivan apologized for the incident last year during testimony before a Senate panel.
Associated Press writer Alicia Caldwell contributed to this report.
Email Alert Sign Up
Sign up here to receive breaking news stories from KSWT.com and morning updates to your email inbox.
Gov. Jerry Brown has agreed to one debate with his Republican rival, Neel Kashkari, in the 2014 governor's race. The one-hour debate - first reported by KQED News on Monday - is scheduled for Sept. 4 in...More >>
Gov. Jerry Brown has agreed to one debate with his Republican rival, Neel Kashkari, in the 2014 governor's race. The one-hour debate - first reported by KQED News on Monday - is scheduled for Sept. 4 in Sacramento....More >>
Tuesday, August 19 2014 8:44 PM EDT2014-08-20 00:44:39 GMT
Flooding from heavy monsoon season rains in the Phoenix area forced authorities on Tuesday to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17, while elsewhere firefighters rescued multiple motorists...More >>
Heavy monsoon season rains that swept across Arizona on Tuesday led to dramatic rescues, road closures and flight delays as a series of fast-moving storms pummeled the state.More >>
Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits willMore >>
Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed if congressional Republicans fail to increase the government's borrowing authority in a looming showdown over the nation's debt and spending.More >>