Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to retire

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan will retire effective Feb. 22, an agency spokesman confirmed Friday.

Sullivan, who has led the agency since 2006, began his career with the Secret Service in 1983. He will be the third-longest serving head of the agency, and was responsible during his career for overseeing 23 national security special events, including the 2009 presidential inauguration.

President Obama praised Sullivan in a statement and thanked him for protecting five first families, “including my own.”

“Mark has led the agency with incredible dedication and integrity,” Obama said.

Sullivan's tenure at the Secret Service might be most remembered for the Colombian prostitution scandal that enveloped the agency last year. 

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Six agents were fired or forced to resign after reports surfaced that they had partied with prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of a presidential visit. The agency insisted that presidential security was never at risk, but the incident was a major black eye for the protective service. Another five agents lost their top-secret security clearances.

In a letter to employees in the aftermath of the scandal obtained by The Associated Press, Sullivan said the agency had moved in a "swift, decisive manner immediately after this incident was brought to our attention."

"Our job, our mission, our responsibility is to the president, the American people and the individuals we are entrusted to protect," Sullivan said. "This is not just a matter of honor, although this is critical. It is imperative, as part of our sworn duties, to always act both personally and professionally in a manner that recognizes the seriousness and consequence of our mission."

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sullivan "epitomizes the term 'public service.' "

“I want to thank Mark Sullivan for his nearly seven years as Director of the United States Secret Service, 29 years of service to five presidents and 34 years of service to the country in law enforcement," Napolitano said. "His commitment to keeping our country and its top officials safe is unparalleled, and his devotion to the mission of the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security has been unwavering."

Before becoming directory of the agency, Sullivan oversaw criminal investigations involving credit cards and bank fraud, and served for five years over two separate assignments on the Presidential Protective Division. In an administrative capacity, Sullivan headed the agency's Vice Presidential Protective Division and human resources and training division before being named director.

—This post was last updated at 6:35 p.m.