President Barack Obama has appointed a former Orlando police officer and University of Central Florida graduate to be the next director of the United States Secret Service.
Julia A. Pierson, a 30-year veteran of the service, will be the first woman to head the elite agency. She currently serves as the chief of staff to the director. The appointment does not require Senate approval.
"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," the president said in a statement. "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."
Pierson graduated from UCF in 1981 with a degree in Criminal Justice.
"She's going to bring great credibility," said Altamonte Springs Police Chief Mike McCoy. He met Pierson at the Orlando Police Department in the early 1980s, when they both started their careers.
"I was a police cadet, and she was a police explorer. She had started in high school. We were both there until we turned 21, and we were hired as police officers," he said.
McCoy spent 25 years with Orlando Police, eventually serving as chief. Pierson was with the force from 1980 to 1983, working her way up the ranks.
"She was so well respected and liked, and then she became an instructor at the Police Academy, and she was in the Counterfeit and Fraud Unit."
Pierson joined the Secret Service in 1983 from the Orlando Police Department and served in the Miami and Orlando field offices. She has held various leadership posts in recent years.
She will be tasked with reforming a male-dominated service that was marred by a prostitution scandal. More than a dozen agents who were part of the president's advance security team for a trip to Colombia were linked to a night of heavy partying and disputes with prostitutes.
The outgoing director, Mark Sullivan, testified before a Senate panel and apologized for the embarrassment in 2012. In February, he announced his retirement.
"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," Obama said.
The Secret Service's primary mission is to protect the president and other national leaders and visiting dignitaries as well as investigate financial transaction fraud.
For decades a part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Secret Service was transferred to the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in a statement that she was "proud" of the president's "historic decision" to appoint Pierson.
"I am confident that Julia's background and capabilities will enable her to effectively lead the Secret Service as it continues to protect the safety of our First Families, our nation's leaders, and the public at large," Napolitano said.
Some information taken from the Associated Press.