Holly Petraeus just chuckles when asked if she and her husband have been dubbed "Washington's newest power couple."
"I'm trying not to take it seriously," she says.
Petraeus was picked in January to head the Office of Servicemember Affairs in the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, charged with protecting consumers from shady financial products and practices.
Her husband, Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was appointed earlier this month to head the CIA.
Power couple or not, Petraeus does say she is excited that for the foreseeable future they will both be based in the same city, after 36 years of marriage moving some 25 times.
Holly Petraeus speaks Tuesday at the West Chester-Liberty Chamber monthly members' luncheon, a kickoff to the 2011 Business Expo.
Petreaus comes to town as House Republicans try to restructure the new consumer agency even before it gets off the ground. The CFPB was created as part of the Obama administration's overhaul of the financial services industry passed by Congress in 2010. The agency is scheduled to officially open for business July 21.
Last Wednesday a House subcommittee approved several measures that critics say would "defang" the agency. They include an oversight council that would have the power to veto the consumer bureau's actions. It's not expected the proposals will get far in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
"It's something all of us here are observing carefully, but it's not something I am directly involved with," Petraeus said in an interview Thursday with Cincy Magazine. "We're all moving forward to be ready when the day comes to assume our full powers."
Petraeus was picked for the position by Elizabeth Warren, the Treasury secretary's special advisor to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Warren has been instrumental in lobbying for a robust consumer agency to regulate financial services.
For six years Petraeus ran a consumer advocacy effort for troops and their families at the Better Business Bureau. She was not interviewing for the federal job when she met with Warren last fall to discuss service member consumer issues, but Warren later offered her the post, reportedly convinced Petraeus was the right person for the position given her understanding of the needs and economic strains facing military families.
Petraeus' position at the BBB in turn came about after more than three decades of volunteer work on behalf of military families, often working with businesses and government leaders in communities where her husband was based. The BBB asked her to create a national consumer advocacy program for service members.
Petraeus laughs that her lifelong service work turned into a career, before she realized she had one. She calls herself a good example of how volunteer work can transfer into paid employment.
Since January, Petraeus has been traveling to military bases and speaking to business groups spreading the word about the new agency and listening to
the concerns of military families.
"Providers who do financial consulting for the military are concerned about indebtedness. Many service members
enter the military already in debt and many have significant issues," she says.
Studies have shown military families are targets of predatory lenders at a higher percentage than the general population. Petraeus says one only has to look outside a military base to see everything from pawnshops to payday loan operations.
"It is a young population that doesn't have that much experience managing money," she says. "They tend to be targeted because they do have a guaranteed paycheck that comes in twice a month."
Petraeus says she is sympathetic to the argument that we don't need to saddle business with more government bureaucracy. But she sees her role as primarily educational and consolidating several programs that currently provide financial counseling to military families. She says there are consumer laws already on the books that protect service men and women and she is excited about working for an agency that has been given some teeth to monitor, strengthen and enforce those laws.  
For the first time the CFPB will have jurisdiction over lenders outside of the traditional banking system such as mortgage brokers the payday loan business.