On Tuesday, March 26, President Obama announced that longtime agent Julia Pierson will become the next director of the United States Secret Service, making her the first female to take on this position.
In a statement from the White House, Obama said that “Julia has consistently exemplified the spirit and dedication the men and women of the service demonstrate every day.”
Pierson, 53, will take on the role as head of the agency, which requires her to serve as protection for the president, vice president and their families-something a woman has never been in charge of before.
“I think it’s great that she’s a woman, but the question we should be asking is if she’s qualified and that’s what should be highlighted,” said Stephanie Hernandez, graduate assistant for equity and diversity programs of the Women’s Center.
Pierson definitely has experience under her belt. She began her career as a police officer in the Orlando Police Department from 1980 to 1983, and following that, joined the USSS as a Special Agent in Miami.
She has also held a variety of different leadership positions within the USSS from 2000 to 2008, including Deputy Assistant Director of the Office of Protective Operations, Deputy Assistant Director of the Office of Administration, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Protective Operations and Assistant Director of the Office of Human Resources and Training.
Most recently, she held the position of Chief of Staff in the Office of the Director of the USSS. Overall, she has 30 years of experience with the Secret Service.
Obama’s decision to appoint Pierson as director comes about a year after a scandal broke out regarding 13 Secret Service agents who hired prostitutes in Colombia while on the job.
“I think they’re trying to change the image because of [the prostitution scandal] by making it less of a broke culture, but is it actually going to do that?” said Genna Ayres, violence prevention coordinator of the Women’s Center.
The prostitution controversy tarnished the Secret Service’s longstanding image of security, losing the trust of many Americans in the process. In addition, Secret Service employees are now forbidden from consuming alcohol less than 10 hours before reporting for duty and are also prohibited from patronizing “nonreputable establishments.”
“I don’t think having a woman in power is going to change the image overall. I think perhaps she could put a little bit of her perspective within her overall department area,” said Hernandez.
As director, Pierson will be at the head of the agency that provides the safety of Americans at major events and secures the financial system, in addition to protecting U.S. leaders. Pierson will become the 23rd director of the Secret Service, and Obama believes that her past experiences in her career “will guide her as she takes on this new challenge.”
Social Justice Educator Cara May said she is interested to see how people react to Pierson as the director because, as a woman, she may be faced with hostility or not be taken seriously.
“It will be interesting to see…how she is received, not just by the public, but by the people that are working with her,” May said.