David Jackson, USA TODAY
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday she is resigning to take a job running the University of California education system.
"I thank President Obama for the chance to serve our nation during this important chapter in our history, and I know the Department of Homeland Security will continue to perform its important duties with the honor and focus that the American public expects," Napolitano said in a statement.
Obama praised Napolitano's performance, which has included national responses to threats ranging from hurricanes to terrorism.
"She's worked around the clock to respond to natural disasters, from the Joplin tornado to Hurricane Sandy, helping Americans recover and rebuild," Obama said in a statement. "Since day one, Janet has led my administration's effort to secure our borders, deploying a historic number of resources, while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values."
Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, is only the third person to lead the Department of Homeland Security. She held the job throughout President Obama's first term.
"The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the front lines of our nation's efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career," Napolitano said.
She said her department "has improved the safety of travelers; implemented smart steps that make our immigration system more fair and focused while deploying record resources to protect our nation's borders; worked with states to build resiliency and make our nation's emergency and disaster response capabilities more robust; and partnered with the private sector to improve our cybersecurity."
The Los Angeles Times reported that regents at the University of California who run a 10-campus college system see Napolitano as someone who has run large public agencies and has demonstrated an interest in improving higher education.
"While some may consider her to be an unconventional choice, Secretary Napolitano is without a doubt the right person at the right time to lead this incredible university," Sherry Lansing, the regent and former film industry executive who headed the search committee, said in a statement being released Friday, the Times reported.
Added Lansing: "She will bring fresh eyes and a new sensibility -- not only to UC, but to all of California. She will stand as a vigorous advocate for faculty, students and staff at a time when great changes in our state, and across the globe, are presenting as many opportunities as challenges."
In her statement, Napolitano said that in her new job she wants "to play a role in educating our nation's next generation of leaders."