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Transition Team Profiles

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Friday, November 7, 2008

VALERIE JARRETT

Position: Transition co-chair

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Experience: Jarrett, 51, is a Chicagoan who has done a little of everything in Barack Obama's adoptive home town. Born in Shiraz, Iran, where her father ran a hospital for poor children, Jarrett was raised in Hyde Park, the neighborhood where the Obamas live.

Jarrett worked as a lawyer for Mayor Harold Washington and deputy chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, then moved to the city planning department. She chaired the Chicago Transit Authority before leaving city government to become executive director of Habitat Co., a Chicago firm that develops and manages a wide spectrum of residential properties, including public housing. Habitat has been criticized for poor management of Chicago public housing projects, a knock that Jarrett disputes.

Jarrett has played an influential role at the University of Chicago and currently chairs the University of Chicago Medical Center board while also serving as vice chair of the university's board of trustees. She was also chairman of the Chicago Stock Exchange.

Other: Jarrett is a friend and confidante who calls herself a "sounding board" for Barack and Michelle Obama. She met them nearly 20 years ago when she hired the then-Michelle Robinson, who said before accepting the job that she wanted her boyfriend, now the president-elect, to be able to ask a few questions.

JOHN D. PODESTA

Position: Transition co-chair

Experience: Podesta, 59, is a Chicago native and onetime chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. He is currently president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and recent co-author of a book about how progressives can, as he said in the title, "save our economy, our climate, and our country."

Raised in a blue-collar family, Podesta has a long Washington résumé. He was an aide to Sen. Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) and spent five years as a lobbyist before joining the Clinton White House, where he started as staff secretary.

Podesta rose to deputy chief of staff and took the top job shortly before Clinton's impeachment trial began. He was known for smarts, toughness and attention to detail during the most challenging period of the Clinton presidency. In the years since, he has steeped himself in policy questions.


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