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Profile of Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Director for President Obama


Profile of Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Director for President Obama

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Director & Former Arizona Governor:

On January 21, 2009, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano became Director of Homeland Security for the Obama administration.

Janet Napolitano, a pro-choice centrist Democrat, was elected Arizona Governor in 2002 and reelected in 2006. As governor, she converted a $1 billion budget deficit in 2003 into a $300 million surplus by 2006 without raising state taxes.

In 2005, Time named her one of the top five U.S. governors. For 2006-07, Janet Napolitano was aChair of the National Governors Association.

(Also see Sebelius and Napolitano, Competent Public Face of the Obama Cabinet.)


In late May 2009, Napolitano is reportedly on President Obama's Supreme Court nomination short-list. (See Supreme Court Justice Janet Napolitano?.)

In 1991, Janet Napolitano, then a well-regarded partner in the law firm of Lewis & Roca, LLP, served as the attorney for law professor Anita Hill when Hill testified against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Janet Napolitano was reportedly considered by Democrat John Kerry to be his 2004 running mate for the White House. She was asked to address both the 2000 and 2004 Democratic Party Conventions.

Experience Prior to Governor:

  • 1983-1984 - Law clerk for the Honorable Mary Schroeder of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

  • 1984-1993 - Attorney with Lewis & Roca, a top Arizona law firm. Napolitano was made a firm partner in 1989.

  • 1993-1998 - U.S. Attorney for District of Arizona, appointed by President Bill Clinton. As U.S. Attorney, she supervised the prosecution of more than 6,000 immigration cases.

  • 1998-2002 - Attorney General of Arizona

Janet Napolitano on Issues & Priorities:

Per Napolitano when governor, the most important challenges facing Arizona are "the education of our children, security of our border, and (managing) the rapid rate of Arizona's growth."

In a 2006 interview, she stated, "I believe firmly that education is the gateway to prosperity. That's why we've worked hard to implement voluntary full-day kindergarten statewide, and to support our teachers with a historic pay raise and training."

Janet Napolitano on Immigration:

As governor, Napolitano was outspoken about "the Federal government's failure to fulfill its responsibilities in securing our border and providing for a realistic and functional immigration policy."

To combat illegal immigration, the governor opted to: crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers; catch forgers of I.D. documents; push for more Homeland Security measures to deter border crossings.

For more, see DHS Director Janet Napolitano on Border Security, National Security.

Personal :

  • Birth - November 29, 1957 in New York City to Leonard and Jane Napolitano. The family moved to New Mexico from Pittsburgh when Janet was 6 years old.

  • Education - Sandia High School. B.S. in political science, 1979, summa cum laude with Phi Beta Kappa honors, University of Santa Clara, where she was class valedictorian. J.D., 1983, University of Virginia.

  • Family - single

  • Faith - Christian, Methodist denomination

  • Hobbies - Avid moviegoer and reader
Janet Napolitano is a breast cancer survivor, and had a mastectomy in 2000, three weeks before she addressed the 2000 Democratic Convention.

The Janet Napolitano Persona:

Janet Napolitano is an energetic, outgoing woman with a love of sports and the outdoors. She relaxes by hiking and river rafting, and has hiked trails and mountains around the world, including Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. She's a diehard fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team.

As a child, Janet played the clarinet and became accomplished at the guitar. In law school, she shared a home with three male law students, and recalls playing a lot of bridge. She's a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of America.

The Rumors:

"Napolitano, who has never been married or had children, has long been the subject of a whisper campaign about her sexuality, including some dirty campaign tricks in 2002 when 'vote gay' fliers were posted next to her campaign signs. She is not gay, she has said, 'just a straight, single workaholic.' " --- The Arizona Republic, Sept 24, 2006

Gov Napolitano opposes same-sex marriage, and supports an Arizona law barring gay marriages. She opposed the Federal Marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the grounds of states rights.

The Napolitano Family:

The governor's father, Dr. Leonard Napolitano, is Dean Emeritus of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He and Janet are close, and visit each other frequently. Dr. Leonard has been enormously supportive of his daughter's career path and goals.

Janet's brother, Dr. Leonard Napolitano, Jr., a widower with a school-aged daughter and son, is a respected engineer at Sandia National Laboratories in California. Janet, who has no children, is particularly close to her niece and nephew.

Major Initiatives & Projects by Gov. Janet Napolitano:

As Governor of Arizona
"Gov. Janet Napolitano signed six executive orders on the first day of her second term... Fresh off an impressive re-election win in November, the governor seemed ready to spend a little political capital. Among her executive orders, she moved to:

• Formalize the creation of a Growth Cabinet with a mission to work with communities to create a smart-growth plan in the next 120 days. Communities that don't abide by guidelines could be blocked from receiving some state funding for roads and other needs.

• Limit construction-related pollution on state land and bar the use on state property of leaf blowers and gas-powered mowers.

• Implement a three-year plan to improve care in nursing homes and other long-term housing facilities, including ratings of the homes' quality on her Web site by July.

With her other three orders, Napolitano gave the Arizona Department of Transportation 90 days to present a list of mass-transit and rail options, laid out a low-interest financing scheme to provide dollars for water projects and directed the School Facilities Board to issue an Oct. 1 report for the construction of '21st-century schools.' "

---- The Arizona Republic, January 9, 2007

As Chair of the National Governors Association
Innovation America, 2006-07 NGA Chair Initiative

" 'Governors are best-suited to take the lead in promoting innovation," said NGA Chair Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, "but creating an innovative nation will require cooperation between decision makers at the state and federal levels.

Also discussed at the plenary was a legislative proposal that would create a federal framework to assist regions, states, universities and the private sector in working collaboratively to accelerate the rate of U.S. innovation. The proposal focuses on three critical areas:

1. Improving the math and science proficiency of all children in grades K-12 to increase the number and quantity of scientists and engineers who attend and graduate from college.

2. Promoting innovation broadly throughout the state and targeting innovative regions that compete globally.

3. Creating more flexible workforce programs. "

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