DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart became one of the first foreign officials in history to receive Mexico’s Merit of Honor from President Felipe Calderon for her leadership and commitment in supporting the Mexican Federal Police (SSP) in combating organized crime.
The ceremony took place June 2 in Iztapalapa, Mexico.
SSP holds this event every year to recognize Federal Police sacrifices and achievements as well as new capabilities of this rapidly transforming institution. President Calderón and the First Lady were in attendance, as well as cabinet members, military leaders, state governors, the diplomatic community, media, and key representatives from the private sector.
In addition, President Calderón also presented awards to Colombian National Police Chief General Oscar Naranjo, INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald Noble, and Former Commissioner General of Information, Spanish National Police Jesus de la Morena for their commitment to battling organized crime worldwide.
“This is a tremendous honor for DEA and represents our unwavering support and commitment to Mexico in battling the world’s most ruthless criminal networks,” Leonhart said. “Together we have shown that the rule of law can prevail on both sides of the border and we look forward to continued joint success in the fight against transnational crime.”
Leonhart was unanimously confirmed as the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 22, 2010, following her nomination by President Obama in February 2010.
In that capacity, Leonhart, a career DEA Special Agent, directs the $2.02 billion agency and is responsible for more than 10,000 employees in domestic offices throughout the U.S. and in 83 foreign offices in 63 countries.
Leonhart had been the Acting Administrator since November 2007, and served as DEA’s Deputy Administrator since 2004.
Prior to becoming DEA Administrator and Deputy Administrator, Ms. Leonhart held several positions within DEA’s Senior Executive Service (SES).
She was the Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division from 1998-2003.
In that capacity, she commanded one of DEA’s largest Field Divisions and was responsible for all enforcement and administrative operations in the Los Angeles area, as well as Nevada, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan.
She previously held the position of Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s San Francisco Field Division from 1997-1998, becoming DEA’s first female ever to be promoted to the position of Special Agent in Charge.
Leonhart’s first appointment within the SES was in 1996 when she spearheaded DEA’s Special Agent Recruitment efforts at DEA Headquarters.
As a career DEA Special Agent, she held several key positions as she moved through the ranks of DEA. In 1995 she was promoted to the position of Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division, responsible for Southwest Border enforcement operations and division administrative functions.
Between 1993 and 1995, Leonhart held management positions within DEA Headquarters to include Career Board Executive Secretary, Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) Inspector, and Staff Coordinator in the Operations Division.
Leonhart’s first supervisory position was in DEA’s San Diego Field Division. Prior to that, she initiated major drug investigations and conspiracy cases in Minneapolis and St. Louis, and served as a DEA Special Agent recruiter.
While at DEA, she attended Boston University’s Leadership Institute, and is the recipient of numerous awards and commendations in recognition of her leadership, performance and commitment to public service.
Leonhart was awarded the rank of Distinguished Executive by President Bush in 2004, the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service from President Bush in 2005, and the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service from President Clinton in 2000.
Additionally, Leonhart received the Law Enforcement Exploring William H. Spurgeon Award in 2006, the Women in Federal Law Enforcement Outstanding Federal Law Enforcement Employee Award in 2005, and the DEA Administrator’s Award in 1993.
Leonhart has more than 30 years in law enforcement, beginning her law enforcement career as a Baltimore City Police Officer after graduating from college in Minnesota with a B.S. degree in Criminal Justice in 1978.
She joined the ranks of DEA as a Special Agent in 1980. A native of Minnesota, Leonhart is married and has two sons.