WASHINGTON ó U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano confirmed on Friday she will leave her position to lead the University of California and thanked President Barack Obama for the chance to serve the country as part of his Cabinet.
"I will be nominated as the next president of the University of California to play a role in educating our nation's next generation of leaders," she said in a statement. "I thank President Obama for the chance to serve our nation during this important chapter in our history."
Napolitanoís nomination by a committee of UC regents came after a secretive process that insiders said focused on her as a high-profile, although untraditional, candidate who has led large public agencies and shown a strong interest in improving education, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Napolitano, who is a Democrat, was appointed by former President Bill Clinton as the U.S. attorney in Arizona and then won elections as state attorney general and twice as governor, a position she held from 2003 to 2009. Obama then named her to lead Homeland Security, an agency with an annual $60 billion budget and 240,000 employees.
By comparison, the UC system of 10 campuses, five medical centers and three laboratories had a 2012-13 annual budget of $24.1 billion, employed 170,000 faculty and staff and had a total enrollment of 220,000 students.
Napolitano has been a strong voice in favor of immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally, a stance that has angered some Republicans who contend she has not done enough to secure the nationís borders.
Her proposed salary has not been released, but current U.C. President Mark G. Yudof makes $591,000, according to the U.C. website, significantly more than Napolitano's $200,000 Cabinet position.
A source close to Napolitano, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, told the L.A. Times that Napolitano deliberated for a long time after the executive search firm hired by U.C. quietly contacted her.