United States Secret Service chief Julia Pierson, 53, has worked her way up from special agent in an agency career that spans 30 years.
Pierson was already the highest-ranking female at the male-dominated agency, which investigates financial crimes and is responsible for protecting the president and his family.
She had held the position of chief of staff since 2008 and was respected by agents for her dedication and competency.
Republican and Democratic politicians praised Pierson for her commitment to service when US President Barack Obama appointed her as Secret Service chief in March 2013.
The agency and politicians on both sides were hopeful she could rebuild the reputation of the Secret Service, which was tarnished in a prostitution scandal in 2012.
"Julia has consistently exemplified the spirit and dedication the men and women of the service demonstrate every day,'' Obama said in a written statement announcing Pierson's appointment.
Mark Sullivan, whom she replaced after he retired in the wake of the prostitution scandal in February, led the tributes from past and present colleagues on her rise to the top job.
"I have known and worked with Julie for close to 30 years," Sullivan said.
"I knew law enforcement was my area of interest and really had a personal passion toward serving others."
- US Secret Service chief Julia Pierson
"I know Julie will do an outstanding job."
Secret Service agents who know Pierson describe her as smart, experienced and even-keeled.
"Julie was selected because she is competent, and she has been around for 30 years and understands the service well," Ralph Basham, a former Secret Service director, told Reuters.
Born in Orlando, Florida, Pierson studied criminal justice at the University of Central Florida in 1981.
She served as a police officer in the Orlando Police Department for three years from 1980, but her passion to serve led her to join the Secret Service.
Pierson became a Secret Service special agent with the Miami field office in 1983.
“I knew law enforcement was my area of interest and really had a personal passion toward serving others," she told
Smithsonian Magazine in 2007.
"I enjoyed being a police officer; I enjoyed the investigations.
"I also wanted an opportunity to travel and see what the protection side was like.”
Pierson went on to serve four years with the Presidential Protective Division from 1988.
She became deputy assistant director of the Office of Protective Operations in 2005 and served as assistant director of human resources from 2006-2008.