Meet Delaware Native and Secret Service Spokesperson Cathy Milhoan

Cathy Milhoan carries her love for storytelling into her job with the U.S. Secret Service./Illustration/Abby Musial

Felton native Cathy Milhoan of the U.S. Secret Service walks us through her path from reporter to spokesperson.

Much of her work is confidential, but Cathy Milhoan, a Delaware native and the communications director for the United States Secret Service, is open about her road to success. The self-described “country mouse in the city” grew up on a small farm near Felton and now resides in Severn, Maryland. She commutes into the nation’s capital—her office in downtown D.C. is near the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue—and her career has taken her to six continents. In addition to her day job, she’s working toward a doctorate in communications and teaches at Wilmington University.

Delaware Today: What was your original career goal?

Cathy Milhoan: As a young girl, I wanted to be a vet, but my freshman English teacher, Mary Jane Szjewski, also taught journalism. I took her class and I was hooked. I was editor of The Lancer, the Lake Forest High School newspaper. Then I went to work for the Harrington Journal. (The late) Harry Farrow paid me 24 cents a word. I loved being a reporter. It really helped me prepare me for a stressful career and I learned to never be afraid to ask tough questions.

Milhoan and her husband of 33 years, Mark Milhoan, head to the movies on date night. She loves films that accurately portray the Secret Service’s protection of the president. Her favorites: In the Line of Fire, a 1993 thriller starring Clint Eastwood, and the 1997 action film Air Force One, starring Harrison Ford.

DT: Who had the most influence on your professional life?

CM: I don’t know of one particular person. I tried to take something from every job. I’ve tried to learn and grow. I’ve also had some really challenging bosses, and I learned not to treat people that way.

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DT: Your career has offered some opportunities for travel. What has been your most memorable experience?

CM: The 75th anniversary of Normandy was an incredible experience. I went in support of the presidential visit. Just to be there, talk to the veterans, see the cemetery, look out over the beach. My grandfather was in World War II in the Pacific.

DT: What does great communication look like to you?

CM: I love being able to bridge the gap between those working in law enforcement and the public through the storytelling power of the media.

DT: What are you most proud of?

CM: My family. I’m proud that [my husband] Mark and I raised two great kids, Matthew, 27, and Jennifer, 20. Also, I’m proud of the incredible career I’ve been able to have with different agencies, maintaining my integrity, and helping others grow, personally and professionally.

DT: What advice would you give to your younger self?

CM: Not to get discouraged when challenges come your way. Trust your gut and don’t give up. I know that God has a plan for my life and for everybody. I’ve had no regrets in this incredible journey. I’ve loved every minute of my career, and I know that it all works out in the end. Be faithful to yourself.

Published as “Secrets of Success” in the November 2020 issue of Delaware Today.

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