President Barack Obama has named Orlando native and University of Central Florida graduate Julia Pierson as the first female director of the Secret Service,signaling the president's desire to change the culture at the male-dominated service, which has been marred by scandal.

Pierson, a veteran agent who most recently served as the Secret Service's chief of staff, will take over the top job from Mark Sullivan, who announced his retirement last month.

Obama announced Pierson's appointment Tuesday.

The White House issued a statement following the announcement:

"I am pleased to announce that I will appoint Julia A. Pierson to be the next Director of the United States Secret Service.

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. A veteran of the Miami and Orlando field offices, where she began her career at the Secret Service, Julia has served as the Deputy Assistant Director of the Office of Protective Operations, Assistant Director of Human Resources and Training, and most recently as the Chief of Staff.

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. 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."

Pierson does not need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Pierson was appointed chief of staff for the Secret Service in 2008. She also directs the agency's Enterprise Transformation and Technology Modernization efforts to enhance mission operations and business processes.

She served three years in the Orlando Police Department before beginning her career in the Secret Service in 1983 as a special agent in the Miami Field Office. She was later assigned to the Orlando Field Office from 1985 to 1988.

"We are all so proud of 'Julie'," said former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, who served with Pierson. "She was a great cop; a true professional. She will be a great director."

The Secret Service faced intense criticism during Mark Sullivan's tenure as director 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.

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, back 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 ahead of Obama's arrival 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.

The incident prompted Sullivan to issue a new code of conduct that banned 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.


Julia Pierson's Secret Service career history

  • 2013: Named Secret Service's first woman director by President Barack Obama
  • 2008–2013: Chief of Staff
  • 2006–2008: Assistant director, Office of Human Resource and Training
  • 2005–2006: Deputy assistant director, Office of Protective Operations
  • 2001–2005: Deputy assistant director, Office of Administration
  • 2000–2001: Special agent in charge, Office of Protective Operations
  • 1996–2000: Assistant special agent in charge, Tampa Field Office
  • 1996: Assistant special agent in charge, Office of Protective Operations
  • 1995–1996: Office of Protective Operations
  • 1992–1994: Drug Program Coordinator
  • 1988–1992: Special agent, Presidential Protective Division
  • 1985–1988: Special agent, Orlando Field Office
  • 1983–1985: Special agent, Miami Field Office
  • 1980–1983: Police officer, Orlando Police Department

Sources: The White House, Women in Federal Law Enforcement