Valerie Jarrett

TIME online, by M. J. Stephey & Claire Suddath, Nov. 11, 2008

"Chicago businesswoman Valerie Jarrett has earned all sorts fo nicknames as an aide to President-elect Barack Obama - from "First Friend" to "big sister" to "the other half of Obama's brain". As co-chair of his transition team, Jarrett has spent the past week denying rumors, parsing policy changes and insisting that she doesn't know she'll end up in the new administration (although Beltway gossip suggests she may be appointed to Obama's seat in the Senate). Of her relationship with the 44th commander-in-chief, Jarrett says simply: "He is my dear friend. I would do any- thing the President of the United States asked me to do".

David Axelrod, Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett


- Her great-grandfather was the first African-American to graduate from MIT. Her grandfather was the first African American to head the Chicago Housing Authority and her father, Dr. James Bowman, a specialist in hematology and pathology, be- came the first black resident at Chicago's St. Luke's Hospital.

- When the family moved to Chicago in 1963, classmates teased Jarrett for the English accent she had acquired during her early childhood in Iran and London, where her father had worked in health care.

- Her mother is an expert in childhood development. Both parents, now in their 80s, still work in Chicago and live just two blocks from Obama's home in Hyde Park.

- As a teen, she spent her summers traveling to Ghana, Nigeria and Egypt, among other places. Attended the University of Chicoga Laboratory School and a Massachusetts boarding school before earning her bachelor's at Standford and later a law degree from the University of Michigan.

- Left corporate law after the birth of her only child, Laura, to take a job in 1987 in the office of Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington. Unlike many of her colleagues, she chose to stay on when Richard Daley took over after Washington's sudden death.

-As Daley's chief of staff, she hired Michelle Obama (then Michelle Robinson) to work as assistant to the mayor - but not before re-assuring Michelle's fiancè, Barack Obama, that the job was right for her.

- In 1995, she left post as Chicago's city-planning commissioner to work für The Habitat Co., a for-profit real-estate firm, of which she is now President and CEO. In June, the Boston Globe ran a story on the firm's struggles, noting that city autoritiess had reas- signed control of one of its housing complexes due to mismanagement.

- As a divorced parent, Jarrett once defended checking her watch during a meeting with Mayor Daley by explaining that her daughter's Halloween Parade started in 20 minutes; she got to the march on time.

- She remains a key player in her hometown, where she serves as vice chair of the Chicago 2016th Olympic Committee and hobnobs with local entrepreneurs, journalists, politicans, union bosses and activists. Journalism website Muckety.com has litsted as one of the city's "100 best networked."