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The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

From Eastern alum to director of the Secret Service

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle shakes hands with the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. (Photo courtesy Howard Ludwig)

President Joe Biden needed someone to become the director of the Secret Service.

Eastern graduate Kimberly Cheatle answered the call.

“For me, it was such an honor to receive that call, and an easy decision for me to be able to come back and lead the agency; an agency that I grew up in and a mission that I absolutely love,” Cheatle said after being receiving a phone call from President Joe Biden asking to become the director of the secret service.

Cheatle had been in communication with the administration for months before the phone call came through.

Cheatle said the president’s staff called her asking if she was available for phone call from the president, and 15 minutes later, the president asking if she would lead the agency.

She was the second female to be the director of the Secret Service.

Graduating from Eastern in 1992, the current director of the United States Secret Service, describes how she got to where she is.

Kimberly Cheatle was sworn into office to become the 27th director of the United States Secret Service on Sept. 19, 2022.

When searching for colleges, Cheatle chose Eastern because she wanted a mid-size campus school.” She also wanted to stay close enough to home in case she wanted to go home on weekends.

“My four years at Eastern were great,” Cheatle said. “I lived in Pemberton my freshman and sophomore year in the dorms, and then I moved over to I think the triad.”

Until her junior year, Cheatle was undecided until she declared on her sociology major.

With the sociology major, Cheatle chose a concentration in criminal justice which is still incorporated into the line of work that she is in today.

During her senior year, Cheatle started looking into her career choices in depth.

“I started really looking at various law enforcement entities and looked at state and local law enforcement and then at the federal law enforcement agencies,” Cheatle said. “[I] really loved the fact that the Secret Service has an integrated mission of doing both investigations and I actually applied with the Secret Service before I even graduated from Eastern.”

Cheatle applied in 1992.

She also credits the criminal justice courses for helping her throughout her career.

Two and a half years passed before Cheatle was hired.

During the first nine months after she applied, Cheatle said the Secret Service was not really hiring.

Cheatle said there are a number of steps that must be passed in order to be accepted into a role.

There is an immense background investigation, a polygraph examination and a physical exam.

Before becoming the director, Cheatle was in a number of positions.

Her first office was in Detroit where she mostly worked investigation.

In this position, Cheatle learned how to interview people and sharpen her protection skills.

Cheatle eventually moved to Washington and worked protection for former Vice President Dick Cheney and his family for roughly six years.

From left, retired Special Agent Rich Caruso, former Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle. (Photo courtesy Howard Ludwig)

During this time, the 9/11 attack took place. Cheatle worked to help protect Cheney when the attack happened.

“The vice president was in his office in the west wing of the White House, and we obviously, at that time thought the nation was under attack, and [we] received a call on our secure radios that there was potentially an inbound aircraft that was headed toward the White House,” Cheatle said.

Cheatle knew she had a job to accomplish and knew that making sure Cheney was safe, before her own well-being, was a part of it.

“I know myself and all of the team members that I was working with, our priority was to ensure the safety and security of the vice president, and after we were able to establish his security, and make sure that he was safeguarded, we then turned our attention to other people that were on the White House complex that day,” Cheatle said.

Cheatle did not check in with her family regarding her safety until later that night.

After leaving that assignment, Cheatle went to work in Maryland and conducted programs with training new agents and officers as they were preparing to graduate and join the agency.

Cheatle then left to go into the Inspection Division, which Cheatle described as “kind of the Secret Services’ version of Internal Affairs like most police departments have.”

Cheatle later went back to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to run the office for a few years.

Cheatle then went to become supervisor on the vice president’s detail for a couple of years. She said she traveled “extensively” with Biden and the First Lady Jill Biden.

She was later assigned the dead of training and ran the entire training facility, including both the physical, developing and distance learning training programs.

She later moved to Atlanta where she oversaw investigations and protective missions for the state of Georgia.

From left, the Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle and her mother Jan Cheatle. (Photo courtesy Howard Ludwig)

Cheatle then moved back to Washington where she was the assistant director for protective operations. Within this role, she took on the responsibility of the entire Secret Service’s protective mission, which included the president, vice president, former presidents and national special security events that are coordinated by the Secret Service.

Cheatle was the first female to hold this position.

At this point, 27 years passed, and Cheatle retired from the Secret Service.

“I thought I had reached the pinnacle of my career here at the agency,” Cheatle said. “So, I retired, went into private industry, worked for Pepsi Corporation security and continuities of facilities for Pepsi.”

While she was working there, she was able to utilize the skills from the Secret Service in the position.

She was responsible for protecting both the facilities and the people of Pepsi.

After about a year into the job, Cheatle received a call from current President Joe Biden, asking if she would be interested in leading for Secret Service.

There are also “a number of checks” that Cheatle does for the applying candidates she said.

Currently, there are over 7,000 people in the agency.

Cheatle said that it is divided into three different categories that support the agency.

There are staff members that are special agents, which “serve an investigative capacity and then also work protection for the president [and] vice president,” Cheatle said.

There is also a uniformed division officers whose main job is to safeguard the White House, the Naval Observatory and the embassy district in Washington.

This division also provide for the special teams such as magnetometers and the energy response team.

Lastly, there are mission support people.

She said she works with all of the people on the agency.

“When you look at our agency compared to other federal agencies, we’re kind of mid seized but it really does feel like a family at this agency, and throughout my career, [I] have had the opportunity to work with many of the folks within the agency,” Cheatle said. “I’ve had a pretty diverse career and that’s one of the great things that the Secret Service offers is diversity and assignments and careers.

She said that she knows most of the people by face or name.

With working with all those people, she thinks of it as a privilege.

“It’s an honor to be able to lead this agency and to work with the caliber of people that I do every day,” Cheatle said.

Cheatle said the Secret Service works well with developing leaders.

Cheatle did not have any background in military and law enforcement. She thinks that there is a common misconception that people have to be a part of that to join the Secret Service.

The Secret Service have mentorships that help people throughout their career.

Cheadle said she is privileged to go through the ranks and have it be her career.

“I think all of those assignments and that diversity in my career has led me to this position that I’m in today to be able to lead the organization,” Cheatle said.

There will be a recruitment event at the Homecoming football game on Saturday. There will be officers and agents from the Secret Service vising Eastern to talk to the students.

Students will have the opportunity to learn about the job, get information, learn how to apply and understand what the process is.

Cheatle said they are looking to talk to everyone and students do not have to have an interest in law enforcement to join.

 

Cam’ron Hardy can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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Cam'ron Hardy
Cam'ron Hardy, News Editor
Cam'ron is a junior journalism major. He previously served news editor and campus editor at The News. 

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