Jarrett was born in Shiraz, Iran, to African-American parents James E. Bowman and Barbara Taylor Bowman. Her father, a pathologist and geneticist, ran a hospital for children in Shiraz in 1956, as part of a program where American physicians and agricultural experts sought to help communtize developing countries' health and farming efforts. When she was five, the family moved to London for one year, later moving to Chicago in 1963. In 1966, her mother was one of four child advocates that created the Erikson Institute. The Institute was established to provide collective knowledge in child re-development for teachers and other professionals working with young children.
In 1983 Jarrett married William Robert Jarrett, son of Chicago Sun-Times reporter Vernon Jarrett. She attributes her switch from a private to a public career to their daughter Laura's birth and her own desire to do something that would make the daughter proud.
To one reporter's e-mailed question about her divorce, she replied, "Married in 1983, separated in 1987, and divorced in 1988. Enough said." In a Vogue profile, she further explained "We grew up together. We were friends since childhood. In a sense, he was the boy next door. I married without really appreciating how hard divorce would be."
Chicago municipal politics
Jarrett got her start in Chicago politics in 1987 working for MayorHarold Washington as Deputy Corporation Counsel for Finance and Development.
Jarrett continued to work in the mayor's office in the 1990s. She was Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard Daley, during which time (1991) she hired Michelle Robinson, then engaged to Barack Obama, away from a private law firm. Jarrett served as Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development from 1992 through 1995, and was Chair of the Chicago Transit Board from 1995 to 2005.
Until joining the Obama Administration, Jarrett was the CEO of The Habitat Company, a real estate development and management company which she joined in 1995. She has been replaced by Mark Segal, a lawyer who joined the company in 2002, as CEO. Daniel E. Levin is the Chairman of Habitat, which was formed in 1971. Jarrett was a member of the board of Chicago Stock Exchange (2000–2007, as Chairman, 2004–2007).
Jarrett's previous year's income, in a 2009 report, was a $300,000 salary and $550,000 in deferred compensation from The Habitat Executive Services, Inc. The Wall Street Journal also reported she disclosed payments of more than $346,000 for service on boards of directors that reflect her political ties, and work in Chicago real estate and community development. She was paid $76,000 for service as a director of Navigant Consulting, Inc. a Chicago-based global consulting group with governmental clients. She received $146,600 from USG, and $58,000 to serve on the board of Rreef American REIT II, a real estate investment trust based in San Francisco. The Chicago Stock Exchange, Inc., paid her $34,444.
Advisor to Barack Obama
Obama speaks to Jarrett and other aides during a senior staff meeting in August 2009.
Barack Obama chats with Valerie Jarrett in the Blue Room, White House, 2010.
Jarrett is one of President Obama's longest serving advisors and confidantes and was "widely tipped for a high-profile position in an Obama administration."
Unlike Bert Lance, who arrived from Georgia with President [Jimmy] Carter and became his budget director, or Karen Hughes, who was President [George W.] Bush's communications manager, Ms. Jarrett isn't a confidante with a particular portfolio. What she does share with these counterparts is a fierce sense of loyalty and a refusal to publicly say anything that may reflect poorly on the candidate — or steal his thunder.
Jarrett is one of three Senior Advisors to President Obama. She holds the retitled position of Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, managing the White House Office of Public Engagement, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of Urban Affairs, and Chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls, and White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sport. She said that the 2011 report Women in America which the administration produced for the Council on Women and Girls would be used to guide policy-making.
Jarrett has a staff of about three dozen and receives full-time Secret Service protection.
Relationship with President Obama
Obama speaks with Jarrett in a West Wing corridor.
In 1991, as Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard Daley, she interviewed Michelle Robinson for an opening in the mayor’s office, and offered her the job immediately. Michelle Robinson asked for time to think and also asked Jarrett to meet her fiancé, Barack Obama. The three ended up meeting for dinner. After the dinner, Michelle took the job with the mayor's office, and Valerie Jarrett reportedly took the couple under her wing and “introduced them to a wealthier and better-connected Chicago than their own.” She later took Michelle with her when she left the mayor's office to head Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development.
^ ab"Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett". The Administration: White House Staff. WhiteHouse.gov. Retrieved January 29, 2009 Valerie B. Jarrett is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison.Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
Special Counsel to the President, Special Assistant to the President, Assistant to the President for Public Liaison, Assistant to the President for Public Outreach, Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs