First lady's chief of staff Sher to step down

No matter where in the world she goes, the first lady gets attention for her fashion choices.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 2:32 PM

Susan Sher, Michelle Obama's chief of staff, will leave her post in January, adding to staff shake-ups in the East Wing over the past 18 months.

Sher, a longtime Obama mentor, took the helm in June 2009, overseeing the rollout of the first lady's childhood obesity initiative and coordinating with the West Wing on Michelle Obama's role in the elections.

"Susan has been both a colleague and a dear friend for decades, and I have been grateful every day for her leadership and wise counsel in Washington," the first lady said Tuesday. "I also very much appreciate her generosity in staying longer than she initially planned - spending so many months away from her family in Chicago - to help me build my office in the East Wing. I wish her all the best."

No successor has been named, but Tina Tchen, White House director for public engagement and a big Obama fundraiser, is considered a possible replacement. Sher will stay on to manage the transition.

The East Wing has had turnover at the top ranks over the past year and a half. Sher replaced Jackie Norris, Michelle Obama's first chief of staff, last summer. Social Secretary Julianna Smoot replaced Desiree Rogers in February, and Camille Johnston, former communications director, left in August.

An East Wing aide said Johnston's replacement will be announced in the coming weeks.

Sher, a former executive at the University of Chicago Medical Center, is close friends with Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama.

Sher made clear from her first days in the White House that she intended to return to Chicago, where her husband lives.

"Susan has brought tremendous skill and dedication to the first lady's office, as well as my administration's outreach to the Jewish community and our efforts to pass health-care reform, and I thank her for her service," the president said Tuesday.

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