Nightly News   |  March 27, 2013

New Secret Service director a ‘strategic thinker’

The new director of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson, is the first woman to take on the role.  The 53-year-old has worked behind the scenes and in the field for 30 years. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports

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>>> we are learning more tonight about the woman president obama has named as the new director of the united states secret service . the first time that post has been held by a woman. secret service agents, of course, are perhaps best known for their role in protecting our president, but it is still a sprawling agency with huge responsibilities still recovering from recent scandal. it all goes now to the new boss. nbc's kristen welker has our report.

>>> i julia pierson --

>> reporter: an historic day in the oval office . julia pierson sworn in as the first female director of the secret service .

>> obviously she's breaking the mold in terms of directors of the agency.

>> reporter: barbara riggs was the agency's first woman deputy director and pierson 's mentor.

>> when i did hear the news i obviously was thrilled.

>> reporter: an orlando native, pierson , who is 53, studied criminal justice at the university of central florida , worked as a police officer during college and became a secret service agent in miami after graduating.

>> she's a go-to person.

>> reporter: pierson has worked behind the scenes and in the field for 30 years. most recently serving as chief of staff. in 2007 she told "smithsonian" magazine her most challenging day in washington was 9/11. we didn't know if what was happening was a prelude to more attacks. i was in charge of making sure everyone was accounted for. the appointment comes at a privy toll time for the secret service . last april there was a prostitution scandal . author ron ke is ssler is critical.

>> julia pierson .

>> reporter: today the white house pushed back.

>> the president believes julia pierson has exactly the kind of experience we want.

>> reporter: coincidentally in the current movie "olympus has fallen" angela bass set plays a female secret service chief. the president pointed out just how powerful julia pierson is.

>> this person now probably has more control over our lives than anyone else except for our spouses.

>> reporter: in high school , pierson worked at disneyworld. she said the large crowd there is helped prepare her for the job he has now. kristen welker, nbc news, the white house .