Kevin Dietsch /UPI/Landov
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Friday's news that a University of California Regents committee recommended U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to the University of California presidency spread fast in California.
"Secretary Napolitano has the strength of character and an outsider's mind that will well serve the students and faculty," Gov. Jerry Brown said in a written statement. "It will be exciting to work with her."
What they'll likely be working on is UC funding, which has been cut by $1 billion over the last five years. Napolitano is expected to spend a lot of time in Sacramento trying to convince legislators to restore some of it. Former assembly speaker Bob Hertzberg said he thinks she'll be good at it.
"She’ll understand the political sensitivities of how to get money," he said. "I think she’ll be creative in terms of understanding the relationship of the federal government and what to do there."
Napolitano headed Homeland Security for four years and served as governor of Arizona for six years before that.
State Sen. Leland Yee, a frequent critic of the University of California's top administration, said her job experience will serve her well.
"I hope she keeps the needs of students, faculty and staff at the forefront after years of devastating tuition increases, questionable spending priorities and a general lack of transparency throughout the UC system," he said.
In a statement, Napolitano said little about what she hopes to do in the job, only that she would "play a role in educating our nation’s next generation of leaders."
U.S. Sen. John McCain was among many in Washington who praised Napolitano’s track record protecting the nation from terrorist threats.
Online chatter focused on what the implications would be that the head of Homeland Security will now be in charge of the prestigious public university. Hertzberg brushed those concerns aside.
"That's a management job," he said of the UC presidency. "It's somebody who has to be very sensitive to information, has to manage a gigantic agency. It's a very, very, very difficult job."
The University of California Regents are expected to approve Napolitano’s appointment at their next meeting. Napolitano is set to start the job in the fall.