“I don’t think people realize the amount of preparation that goes into a presidential visit, everything from where the president is going to physically arrive, whether by airplane or limousine, to the actual event site,” Pierson said.
“We need to know where he’ll walk, where he’ll wait, where he’ll speak from and all have to be evaluated by the Secret Service to secure his safety,” she said.
While the protective arm of the Secret Service is well known, the agency originally was created to do investigative work. It was founded in 1865 by President Abraham Lincoln to combat rampant currency counterfeiting. It wasn’t until after 1901, in the wake of President William McKinley’s assassination, that the Secret Service was directed to take on the job of protecting the president.
The crime-fighting work remains an important part of the mission and the agency continues to fight counterfeiting and other financial crimes, much of it done via computer.
In the old days, criminals could only rob bricks-and-mortar banks and might forge a check with a pen, Pierson said. Now, someone who steals an individual’s personal information could take over the victim’s bank account in cyberspace.
“That would be devastating to the person as well as the banking industry, for people to lose confidence in using the Internet for banking activities,” she said.
Pierson joined the Secret Service out of college after working as a police officer in Orlando while still a student. She first got interested in her career while in high school after joining a co-ed program of the Boy Scouts called the Law Enforcement Exploring program.
She particularly enjoyed her time as a special agent, when each day was different from the one before.
“Assignments are often diverse and spontaneous,” she said. “If you’re in a field office, you could be doing a criminal investigation in the morning and in the afternoon you’re protecting the president of the United States. There’s a little bit of adrenaline in there too.”
This article was jointly prepared by the Partnership for Public Service, a group seeking to enhance the performance of the federal government, and washingtonpost.com. Go to http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/fedpage/players/ to read about other federal workers who are making a difference.