WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- She is one of the most powerful women in Washington when it comes to keeping us safe.
You may remember her as the public face of the FBI in the wake of the tragic Washington Navy Yard shooting. Valerie Parlave is the first female in her role, and she sat down exclusively with WUSA9's Debra Alfarone for a rare one-on-one interview and what she had to say about her role in history may surprise you.
When the tragedy unfolded at the Washington Navy Yard, Parlave had been in her job for just a few months.
Parlave says when she was a child, she wanted to grow up to be several things including a pharmacist, a heart surgeon, and a schoolteacher, but a chance encounter with a retired FBI agent at a summer job intrigued her, "From the time I was 16 through law school, I worked at a golf course during the summers and I met a retired agent during my time there who started recruiting me and talking to me...and that's how I got interested."
We talked to Parlave on a day that meant a lot to her. The 20-year veteran of the bureau was chosen to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier, "This is really the most humbling experience of my bureau career."
Her FBI career started in 1991, when Parlave moved from her hometown of Naples in upstate New York, to join the FBI on the streets of Las Vegas, "I spent 9 years out there working violent crime, drugs and gangs." From there, Parlave made stops in Miami and Little Rock, before taking the helm in D.C. in February. She says the whole time, her dad has been her driving force, "He was my biggest influence, worked 2 jobs his entire life to put me through college and law school."
Every day for Parlave is different.
Wednesday started with a takedown of 20 people on drug charges, then the wreath laying event. Tomorrow? Who knows.
Parlave oversees 1,600 FBI agents and workers whose job it is to keep an area considered a huge terror target safe, "What keeps me up at night is the safety and welfare of my employees. So when I know the SWAT team is out or going to be out in the morning...I'm going to be continually concerned for their safety," she said.
Parlave touched upon sequestration. She said, "It's hard to juggle because I think everything the FBI does is important, and it's amazing to me that everybody else doesn't't think the same thing."
We asked Parlave how she feels about her history-making role as the first woman in her job. She says, "So, I never thought a lot about being a female special agent and it never really occurred to me as I was moving up through the ranks that I would be the first this or that. It's not meaningful to me personally. It's meaningful to me to the extent that it influences employees here and that it's meaningful to them."
In Parlave's off-time, she likes to play golf, take country drives with her husband to places like Middleburg, Virginia, and watch sports and news on TV.