Since 1789, only 36 people have held the momentous post of Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. House of Representatives. A Whittier Law School alumnus, Paul D. Irving, was recently sworn into this position in January 2012. “I feel a tremendous sense of purpose and mission when I serve my country,” he says.
Under the direction of the Speaker of the House, the Sergeant at Arms is responsible for the security in the House wing of the United States Capitol. “I coordinate with other law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, Secret Service, the military, and a myriad of public safety and emergency management agencies. The ability to pick up the phone and discuss security and consequence management issues is invaluable,” Paul says. He also performs ceremonial duties, such as leading formal processions at occasions including presidential inaugurations and State of the Union addresses. It is his voice heard announcing, “Mister Speaker, the President of the United States!”
While a student at Whittier Law School, Paul clerked at the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, which confirmed his interest in law enforcement. After graduation, he joined the Secret Service as a special agent, where he started his career chasing check forgers and counterfeiters. While in the Los Angeles field office, he was assigned to protect Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, presidential candidates, and numerous foreign heads of state visiting Los Angeles.
In 1986, he transferred to Washington, D.C., where he served as an instructor at the Secret Service Training Academy, before being assigned to the Presidential Protective Division during the administrations of Presidents Bush and Clinton. Over the years, Paul continued to be promoted in the Secret Service to positions with greater responsibility.
Paul has been behind the scenes in key historic events. After the ATF standoff and fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993, he was a member of the small team that conducted the administrative investigation. In 1995 and 1996, he handled many sensitive matters between the Secret Service and Congress such as the controversial closing of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House (in the wake of the Oklahoma City Bombing), and the temporary closing of National Airport after 9-11.
After the September 11 attacks, Paul was given a core leadership role in creating the new Department of Homeland Security. Once the department was formally approved by Congress, he became the Assistant Director of Homeland Security for the Secret Service, acting as liaison between the two entities.
Two years later, he was assigned as the Assistant Director of Administration for the U.S. Secret Service, responsible for a $1.6 billion budget, 6,800 personnel and 130 field offices worldwide. During his tenure, he made major contributions to the betterment of the organization, working with Congress to attain significant additional resources and agents.
After 25 years with the Secret Service, Paul retired in 2008 in order to manage his family’s business. However, his strong sense of duty to his country prevailed, and he returned to public service to be unanimously elected to the Sergeant of Arms office this year.
“It is my job to keep Congress and its members safe,” says Paul. “That involves not only experience, but common sense, sound judgment, and intuition to do the right things in the right way.” With this extraordinary career, Paul has a few words of wisdom to current Whittier Law School students. “Think about a career in public service. You don’t have to be a traditional lawyer…your skills are transferable and useful in so many different areas.”
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