In an unusual move, putting a national-level politician in a position usually held by an academic, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was selected to lead the University of California system, The Times reported Friday morning.
The former Arizona governor's appointment also means the 10-campus system will be headed by a woman for the first time in its 145-year history.
Napolitano's nomination by a committee of UC regents came after a secretive process that insiders said initially focused on her as a high-profile, though nontraditional, candidate who has led large public agencies and shown a strong interest in improving education.
"While some may consider her to be an unconventional choice, Secretary Napolitano is without a doubt the right person at the right time to lead this incredible university," Sherry Lansing, who headed the search committee, said in a statement Friday. "She will bring fresh eyes and a new sensibility -- not only to UC, but to all of California. She will stand as a vigorous advocate for faculty, students and staff at a time when great changes in our state, and across the globe, are presenting as many opportunities as challenges."
Napolitano, a Democrat, was appointed by President 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. President Obama then named her to lead Homeland Security, an agency with an annual $60-billion budget and 240,000 employees.
In Arizona, Napolitano helped enact plans to provide full-day kindergarten and to renovate university buildings, winning fans among educators.
The UC regents are expected to approve her nomination as UC's 20th president on Thursday during a meeting in San Francisco. Napolitano is expected to take up the UC reins some time in September, officials said.