Renae McDermott is the first woman to ever earn the title of Special Agent in Charge of the Knoxville FBI division. She took over the position late last year.
Women hold only 12 percent of the senior ranking positions in the FBI, according to a report by The New York Times.
Her territory covers 41 counties in East Tennessee including the Chattanooga, Tri-cities and Tullahoma divisions.
McDermott started with the FBI in 1989 as a police officer and worked her way up to agent and team leader. She held positions in Dallas, Albuquerque and at the headquarters in Washington D.C. Her latest assignment was Special Assistant to FBI Director James Comey.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, she didn't always dream of fighting terrorists. In fact, at one point in her childhood, she wanted to be farmer. During her college career, she discovered she wanted to help children.
"I knew I wanted to be a public servant after I went through the not being a dairy farmer, a veterinarian or a teacher. I ended up finding a good niche with the FBI," McDermott said.
She's worked in counter-terrorism and cyber crimes but she said the bulk of her background is in fighting violent crime.
"The most proud (moment of my career) was probably an investigation that happened when I was initially an agent in Miami. A kidnapping of a mother and two sons at Christmastime. We worked diligently on it for a week and we recovered them alive. That has been and will be one of the highlights early on in my career," she said.
She said she's also proud of her time embedded in Iraq in the mid-2000s. She can't talk about the details but McDermott was in charge of a team of interrogators who helped bring terrorists to prosecution.
She said fighting terrorism continues to be her top priority as she assumes the new role in Knoxville.
Last year, she said the FBI stopped at least 15 potential acts of terror on the homeland.