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Outstanding Alumni - 2009

Michele Leonhart


Bemidji State University Graduate 1978

Ms. Michele Leonhart graduated from Bemidji State University in 1978 with a degree in criminal justice. Following graduation, Ms. Leonhart began her career in law enforcement as a patrol officer in Baltimore, Maryland.  Interested in a career in federal narcotics law enforcement, she applied for and received a position as Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in late 1980 and began a distinguished career in drug enforcement.  She selected Minneapolis as her first duty station, where she worked for five years. Over the years she earned promotions from special agent and group supervisor to senior executive rank positions.  In 1997 she became DEA's first female Special Agent in Charge, with command assignments in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In 2004, she was appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the US Senate as the Deputy Administrator of the DEA.  In that capacity, Ms. Leonhart is the highest ranking DEA Special Agent, responsible for all enforcement, intelligence, administrative and regulatory operations and over 10,000 employees across the U.S. and in 83 foreign offices.  Since November 2007, she has served as DEA's Acting Administrator.  Ms. Leonhart has been recognized for her role in several major domestic and international drug investigations and seizures.  She received the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Executive from President Bush in 2004, the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service from President Clinton in 2000, and numerous other awards.  She has also been recognized for her leadership in the Law Enforcement Exploring Program, working with young people interested in a career in law enforcement.  Ms. Leonhart is married to Gene Johns, a narcotics Detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen.  They split their time between California and Washington, DC.