President Obama will appoint Julia Pierson, a veteran U.S. Secret Service agent and senior official, as the first female director of the agency, White House officials said Tuesday. Pierson, 53, began her career in the Secret Service as an agent in Miami three decades ago. She serves as the service’s chief of staff. She does not need Senate confirmation for the post (thank the lawd), which White House officials said would be announced Tuesday afternoon. Obama’s selection of Pierson comes after an extraordinarily difficult year at the service, and amid calls that the next director make internal changes at the agency whose masculine culture was exposed during an overseas trip last year. In April, in preparing for Obama’s visit to Cartagena, Colombia, for a summit of the hemisphere’s leaders, several Secret Service agents brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms, where an argument ensued. In all, 13 agents and officers were involved in a scandal that shadowed the president’s summit and exposed a culture within the service of macho behavior while on the road with the president’s protective detail. The Secret Service’s principal responsibilities are protecting the president and investigating counterfeiting and fraud.
The service’s director for most of the past seven years, Mark Sullivan, announced his retirement last month after apologizing for the scandal. In a statement Tuesday about Pierson’s impending appointment, Sullivan said:
“I have known and worked with Julie for close to thirty years. She was an excellent Assistant Director and Chief of Staff, demonstrating sound judgment, leadership, character, and commitment to our Country, the men and women of the U.S. Secret Service and those we serve and protect. This is a historic and exciting time for the Secret Service and I know Julie will do an outstanding job.”