She doesn’t look like someone you’d want to mess with
No indeed. Ms Pierson has just been named as the first female director of the Secret Service, the organisation tasked with the protection of President Obama. The Orlando native, who once wore character costumes for Disney World parades to earn money during secondary school, joined the service in Miami in 1983 and worked her way up to become chief of staff.
Who will she replace?
Mark Sullivan, the man who was forced to apologise to senators last year when agents sent to Colombia to prepare for the President’s visit were found cavorting with prostitutes in their hotel rooms. The Cartagena scandal was deeply embarrassing for the security force, and Ms Pierson’s appointment suggests the White House is tired of the Service’s ‘boys club’ reputation. It’s also a way of deflecting criticism that Mr Obama has failed in his second term to give enough top jobs to female and minority candidates.
Is she the woman for the job?
It is thought that Mr Obama settled on Ms Pierson after his first choice, David O’Connor, pulled out. Rumours of the former Secret Service official’s selection for the role had angered The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, who claimed Mr O’Connor’s name had cropped up in a long-running racial discrimination lawsuit. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley noted that Ms Pierson “has a lot of work ahead of her to create a culture that respects the important job the agency is tasked with”. But Mr Obama seems confident enough: “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,” he said.