- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2008

President Bush yesterday nominated Michele M. Leonhart for the top slot at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, where she is acting administrator and would become the second woman to lead the agency.

Mrs. Leonhart, who rose through the ranks of the DEA over a 28-year career, replaces Karen P. Tandy, who resigned after five years in October to become a senior vice president of Motorola Corp.’s global government relations and public policy division.

A former police officer in Baltimore, where she finished first at the Baltimore Police Academy in 1978, Mrs. Leonhart was the first woman to be named as a special agent in charge of a DEA field division. She was hired in Baltimore after being rejected from several other police departments because of her 5-foot, 4-inch stature.

In Baltimore, her tenacity on the beat was well-established and she was known to many on the street as “Mighty Mike.”

Before coming to Washington, Mrs. Leonhart was the special agent in charge of the DEA’s Los Angeles field division. In Los Angeles, she commanded DEA offices and enforcement operations in the Los Angeles area, as well as Nevada, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan.

Mrs. Leonhart became a DEA deputy administrator in 2004 after unanimous confirmation by the Senate. The agency has 11,000 employees, including 4,600 agents in the U.S. and 85 foreign countries.

Mrs. Leonhart was hired as a DEA special agent in 1980, again finishing first in her academy class, and was assigned to Minneapolis as her first duty station, where she worked for five years. During that time, she routinely posed as an undercover agent and initiated numerous complex conspiracy investigations.

The drug traffickers she arrested varied from millionaires to street dealers.

With mobility a requirement of the job, Mrs. Leonhart was transferred in 1986 to the DEA St. Louis field division, where she became the special agent recruiter. She was promoted later as a group supervisor in the DEA’s San Diego field division.

After a short assignment as the intelligence supervisor in San Diego, she took over command of an enforcement group for five years, conducting numerous investigations that included international smuggling cases.

Mrs. Leonhart was awarded the DEA Administrator’s Award in 1993 for her distinguished service as a supervisor. She is married and has two sons.

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