Valerie Bowman Jarrett
Date of birth : 1956-11-14
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Shiraz, Iran
Nationality : American
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-06-25
Valerie Jarrett (also known as: Valerie Bowman Jarrett, Valerie B. Jarrett) born November 14, 1956 in Shiraz, Iran is an American politician . Valerie Bowman Jarrett is a senior advisor and assistant to the president for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Obama administration. She is also a Chicago lawyer, businesswoman, and civic leader. Prior to that she served as a co-chairperson of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.
Valerie Jarrett played a key role in Barack Obama's two historic campaign victories--his 2006 bid for a U.S. Senate seat and his election to the White House two years later. The former Chicago municipal official and real estate executive is a close friend of the Obama family, and in 2009 became the new president's senior advisor and assistant for intergovernmental relations and public liaison. Six months into the job, Jarrett was profiled by New York Times Magazine writer Robert Draper in an article that bore the headline, "Obama's BFF," or "best friend forever." "She's someone I trust completely," the president told Draper. "She combines the closeness of a family member with the savvy and objectivity of a professional businesswoman and public-policy expert. And that's a rare combination to have."
Jarrett was born in 1956 in Shiraz, Iran, where her father, Dr. James Bowman, had taken a job training physicians for an American aid program. Barbara Bowman, Jarrett's mother, was equally accomplished as an expert in early education who would go on to play a pivotal role in training the first preschool teachers for the federally funded Head Start program. Jarrett's mother was also the daughter of Robert Rochon Taylor, the first black person to become head of the Chicago Housing Authority. "My parents often told me that because I was both black and a woman, I should expect to have to work twice as hard," Jarrett recalled in an interview with the Chicago Tribune's Don Terry. "They did not dwell on the unfairness. Rather, they readily admitted it was unfair, but a fact of life."
Jarrett spent some of her childhood in the Hyde Park area of Chicago before entering a Massachusetts boarding school. In 1974, she began classes at Stanford University, which would grant her a degree in psychology four years later. From there, she went on to the University of Michigan Law School, and in 1981 returned to Chicago and became an attorney in private practice. In 1983, she wed William Jarrett, a physician she had known since her youth in Hyde Park. They had a daughter together, but the marriage was over by 1988.
By that point Jarrett had also switched careers, too. Inspired by the election of Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington, in 1983, she left her well-paying corporate law job for a desk at City Hall as Mayor Washington's corporation counsel. Washington died of a heart attack in 1987, but Jarrett stayed on through successive mayoral administrations until Richard M. Daley, who came to office in 1989, named her his deputy chief of staff. It was in this capacity that Jarrett interviewed the future First Lady, who was known as Michelle Robinson at the time. There were some similarities in their backgrounds: like Jarrett, Robinson had earned degrees from elite schools and became a corporate attorney, but was dissatisfied and stressed by her job. She also yearned for a new line of work that reflected her commitment to public service. Jarrett offered Robinson a job at City Hall, and soon forged a close friendship with her and the man Robinson would marry in 1992, Barack Obama.
Also in 1992, Daley named Jarrett to serve as commissioner of the city's Department of Planning and Development. This was a difficult, challenging position in any major city, but perhaps even more so in Chicago, where the major public-housing complexes her grandfather had advocated had become dangerous, virtual high-rise prisons for their beleaguered residents. As Daley's planning commissioner, Draper wrote, Jarrett "presided over a rancorous but largely successful makeover of the city's landscape, tearing down blighted housing projects and relocating residents--those who qualified anyway--to far more attractive new developments in racially mixed neighborhoods."
Jarrett returned to the private sector in 1995, taking a job with the Habitat Company, a Chicago real estate developer where 12 years later she was promoted from executive vice president to chief executive officer. She remained active in civic affairs, serving as chair of the Chicago Transit Board for several years, while also becoming the first black woman to serve as board chair of the Chicago Stock Exchange. With her deep connections to both the city's financial and black elite, she was Barack Obama's obvious choice to head the finance committee for his 2004 Senate campaign, and then became a senior advisor to his historic presidential campaign in 2007, leaving behind her Habitat post.
Obama had assembled a seasoned team of political strategists for his 2008 bid for the Democratic Party nomination for president, but Jarrett is credited with steering some of the campaign's talking points to issues of race and relations with the black community. When Obama won the November election, there was some talk of Jarrett being appointed to his newly vacant Senate seat, but Michelle Obama "came down very hard, saying that's not what she wanted me to do," Jarrett recalled in the interview with Draper in the New York Times Magazine. "She said, 'We need you in the White House.'... [H]er attitude was like: 'You've come all this way, and you thought this was a good idea, and now you're gonna bail on me? No way!'"
Jarrett became co-chair of the Obama transition team immediately following the election, and on November 14--her 52nd birthday--the president-elect announced that Jarrett would serve as White House senior advisor and assistant to him for intergovernmental relations and public liaison. In January of 2009, she moved into a West Wing office formerly occupied by Republican strategist Karl Rove under Obama's predecessor, and before Rove, the quarters of Hillary Clinton when she was First Lady. The woman who recommended Michelle Obama for an interview with Jarrett back at Chicago City Hall in 1991, Susan Sher, serves as the new First Lady's chief of staff.
Jarrett's daughter, Laura, was a student at Harvard Law School when her mother moved to Washington. Jarrett's parents, James and Barbara Bowman, are still active in the medical and educational institutes anchored in the Hyde Park community. Their accomplished daughter was interviewed by Judy Woodruff for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) just days after the election and asked about her long ties to the Obama family. "He's still the same person that I really met 17 years ago," Jarrett reflected on the first black president. "Certainly he's matured and he's grown in the course of those 17 years, but the basic core decency, intellect, judgment, temperament, they're really all just the same."
Born Valerie Bowman, November 14, 1956, in Shiraz, Iran; daughter of James (a physician and professor) and Barbara (a child psychologist) Bowman; married William Robert Jarrett, 1983 (divorced, 1988); children: Laura. Education: Stanford University, A.B., 1978; University of Michigan Law School, J.D., 1981.
Associate attorney with Pope Ballard Shepard & Fowle Ltd., and Sonnenschein, Carlin, Nath & Rosenthal, c. 1981-87; deputy corporation counsel for finance and development, Chicago Law Department, 1987-89; deputy chief of staff, Office of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, after 1989; commissioner, Chicago Department of Planning and Development, 1992-95; chair, Chicago Transit Board, 1995-2003; executive vice president, The Habitat Company, 1995-2007, then chief executive officer, 2007-08; finance committee chair of the Barack Obama for U.S. Senate campaign, 2004; senior advisor to the Barack Obama for President campaign, 2007-08; co-chair, Obama White House transition team, November 2008-January 2009; White House senior advisor and assistant to the president for intergovernmental relations and public liaison, 2009--;
Member: Chairwoman, Board of the Chicago Stock Exchange, 2004-07.
View the full website biography of Valerie Bowman Jarrett.