IN NEED OF a speedy repair job for its shattered image, the U.S. Secret Service dialed up Comcast yesterday.
And Joe Clancy - a top security executive at Comcast's Center City headquarters for the last three years, after a past Secret Service stint that included heading President Obama's protective detail - said he'd come right out.
Clancy, 59, an imposing, dome-topped Villanova grad with close family ties to Philly, was named acting interim chief of the 6,700-person law-enforcement agency after embattled director Julia Pierson abruptly resigned in the wake of a string of security lapses, including a knife-carrying intruder who made it deep inside the White House last month.
Clancy's first mission will be to restore the battered reputation of the 149-year-old agency best-known for protecting current and past presidents, as well as vice presidents and high-profile White House aspirants, but which also investigates counterfeiting and other financial crimes. In addition to the breaches involving presidential security (see related story), a number of agents were forced out in 2012 after a scandal involving prostitutes on a Colombia trip.
Those who know Clancy, either from Comcast or from his stint protecting Obama in the early years of his presidency, have high hopes for his ability to do the job.
"He is one of the nicest, extremely professional - and very understated - individuals that you will meet," said D'Arcy Rudnay, Comcast's chief communications officer. "When you speak with him about security issues, he leaves you with such confidence that he's in complete control, that he's very detailoriented."
"I knew Joe Clancy when he led the presidential detail," David Axelrod, Obama's former top political adviser, wrote on Twitter yesterday. "You could not find a better person to repair the Secret Service."
Indeed, although few Americans - and probably few Philadelphians outside the corporate suite at the Comcast Tower - had heard of Clancy before yesterday afternoon, his face is familiar to people who read newspapers. Numerous press photos and official White House images have shown Clancy in his role of protecting the first family, from opening the first lady's limousine door to phoning Baghdad to deal with security issues for an Obama visit. The personal ties he fostered with the president and those around him will surely help in his new challenge.
After graduating from Villanova in 1978 with a degree in political science, Clancy - reportedly a Havertown native who also studied at West Point - worked in other high-profile Secret Service jobs, as head of National Special Security Events and running major investigations for the agency out of New York.
Clancy at one time taught history at Father Judge High School in Northeast Philly, according to Philadelphia magazine.
In 2011, he left the government for Comcast, telling associates he was eager to move back to Philadelphia, where his wife's family is based. During most of his three-year stint at Comcast, Clancy was head of corporate security. In May he became executive director of Comcast Cable Security.
Officials noted that Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider and parent of NBCUniversal, with 136,000 employees and more than $65 billion in annual revenues, has myriad security issues, which include operating the tallest building between New York and Chicago, the safety of its massive communications grid, and protection against financial crimes.
One small piece of Clancy's work here - overseeing security for an annual shareholders' meeting earlier this year - provided his only moment of local publicity: He was designated to meet with protesters and accept their petition against the firm's still-pending merger with the No. 2 cable provider, Time-Warner Cable. The Comcast Center has been the site of multiple protests since the dawn of the Occupy movement, which began around the time he arrived.
It's not clear how long Clancy's return to the Secret Service will last; he was tagged as "interim" boss. Comcast officials confirmed that he has resigned from the company, but they also suggested they'd be delighted if his career ticket were round-trip.
"We would be more than happy to have him back, if that's what he wants," Rudnay said.