Retired Secret Service Pioneer Revels in Hunt Country Life

(Saturday, November 11, 2006 3:04 PM EST)
She used to protect presidents. Now, Barbara Riggs is enjoying a different lifestyle on her farm in Middleburg.

Riggs was one of the first 10 women to join the U.S. Secret Service as a special agent. Recruited while studying international studies at Cornell University, she finished her degree in December 1974, and immediately began work with the Secret Service in January 1975.

As one of the only women in the field, she came across resistance to women joining federal law enforcement. Despite some of these negative responses, many people were supportive and helped her along with her career.

“For as many of those who resisted, there were equally as many who championed women in federal service and were mentors,” Riggs said in a recent interview. “Mentorship is very important . . . and all of mine were men.”

Over her 31-year career with the Secret Service, Riggs moved up the ranks, and eventually became the first woman to serve as the agency's deputy director.

As a role model and leader in the organization, she felt it important to give everyone a chance to shine.

“Just like when I came on board, you need someone to give you opportunities,” Riggs said. “I tried to give people opportunities to perform in a really critical mission environment.”

Riggs retired from the Secret Service last January, and recently was selected as a recipient of the Presidential Rank Award, one of the agency's highest professional accolades. “It's a real honor,” she said. “I really feel great about ending my career with this recognition.”

Riggs was no stranger to Middleburg when she bought her home in the village of Unison in 2001. She began horseback riding and foxhunting in the area in 1978, and began hunting with the Middleburg Hunt in the early 1990s.

She lived in Loudoun County in Hamilton since 1979, but had her sights set on retiring in the Middleburg area to pursue her equestrian and hunting interests.

These days, hunting and horseback riding are what take most of her time. Riggs owns six horses, and hunts with the Piedmont Hunt and serves as a whipper-in at the Loudoun Hunt West.

“I keep the horses fit for hunting, and although it's pushing my physical endurance, I hunt six days a week,” Riggs said. “It's good to get back to recreation.”

Barbara Riggs had 31-year career with the Secret Service, rising to become deputy director.

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