SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After being appointed the first female president of the University of California, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano admitted she might not have been the obvious choice.
But Napolitano said her leadership experience as a cabinet secretary and governor of Arizona had prepared her for leading the 10-campus university system with 240,000 students.
"Let me acknowledge that I am not a traditional candidate for this position," the 55-year-old Napolitano told UC's governing board. "I have not spent a career in academia. But that said, I have spent 20 years in public service advocating for it."
University regents voted Thursday to approve her nomination, despite objections to her record on immigration.
Student regent Cinthia Flores was the only board member to cast a vote against Napolitano, echoing heated remarks from protesters inside and outside the meeting concerned about deportations and other elements of Napolitano's policies as head of homeland security.
"I grew up in an immigrant household, in an immigrant community," Flores told the regents. "I can tell you the fear is real."
Napolitano defended her track record on immigration, saying she has been an advocate for the federal DREAM Act and immigration reform.
She is expected to start the new job in late September and will make a base salary of $570,000, about $20,000 less than her predecessor. Chairman of the board of regents Bruce Varner said Napolitano was offered the same compensation as Mark Yudof, but her representatives said she would take the lower salary. Napolitano did not directly address why she decided to take less pay.
"All I will say is I've been in public service for 20 years, and you do these jobs because of your passion for the work," Napolitano said.
She will also get a one-time relocation fee of $142,500, an annual auto allowance of $8,916, and $28,500 annually in special senior management benefits plus a standard retirement plan that would be vested after five years.
Her base salary as homeland security secretary is $199,700.
Supporters lauded Napolitano as a leader who has managed large, complex public agencies, and said her political aptitude would help the financially embattled university system secure money from the state and donors.
"I think we have in front of us a remarkable person of character," said California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who cast his vote for her.
Before the vote, dozens of protesters gathered outside the board meeting, waving signs and shouting speeches against Napolitano.
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