First Lady Michelle Obama is naming Tina Tchen her new chief of staff, picking a Chicago attorney already in the White House to replace Susan Sher.
Mrs. Obama said in a statement provided to Politics Daily, "I am thrilled to welcome Tina to my team."
Tchen and Sher will work together this month during a transition that will include a state dinner on Jan. 19 for Chinese President Hu Jintao. Sher, whose departure was announced last year, had long planned to move back to Chicago, where her husband, a Cook County Circuit Court judge, had remained.
Tchen will oversee Mrs. Obama's main agenda items, including marking the completion next month of the first year of her "Let's Move!" anti-childhood-obesity drive.
"What the East Wing does is very much shaped by her interests and passions as have been seen for the last two years, so I see most of myself as continuing to serve her and the administration and carrying that vision out," Tchen said in an interview Wednesday morning.
In appointing Tchen, Mrs. Obama did not stray far from a familiar circle. Tchen works for White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett as the director of the Office of Public Engagement and as executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. Tchen will continue to run the council.
Tchen, Sher, Jarrett and Mrs. Obama all come out of an interlocking Chicago circle whose relationships go back years. Tchen said, "When you do Democratic politics, progressive politics in Chicago, it is not that big a community and you all get to know each other." She met Mrs. Obama sometime "in the early '80s, as we were doing that kind of work, political progressive grassroots work." Tchen was also a major fund-raiser for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, ranked as a "superbundler" who raised more than $200,000.
Jarrett said in an interview on Wednesday Tchen brings more than a comfort factor to the post. She comes with "trust, confidence, knowing that Tina shares our philosophy about public service and why we are here and her enthusiasm and passion for the issues which Mrs. Obama cares deeply about and she will be a terrific bridge between the East and the West Wing."
Tchen becomes Mrs. Obama's third chief of staff and her appointment comes as part of a midterm personnel shuffle at the White House. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced Wednesday he is stepping down. And another Chicagoan, former Commerce Secretary William Daley, is in the running to be the new Obama White House chief of staff, as is interim chief of staff Peter Rouse.
In her statement about Tchen, Mrs. Obama further said, "I have admired her work with the White House Council on Women and Girls and her leadership with the Office of Public Engagement. Tina's tenure at the White House has focused on ensuring that communities across the country have a voice and a presence at the White House, and her office has worked closely with mine to develop many of our outreach efforts, so she was the natural choice for this role. We particularly share a commitment to nurturing young women and utilizing the White House as a platform for education and inclusion, and I look forward to continuing that work together.
"As sad as I am to see Susan go, I always knew she would return to her family and her community in Chicago. She arrived here in January of 2009 intending only to stay for a year and her extended tenure as my Chief of Staff has been a gift. She has led my team with an even hand and a clear vision and I am so grateful to her and her family for her time here in Washington.
"When selecting a replacement, I looked for someone who had the right experience to lead my team and am grateful to bring on Tina, whom I've known and respected for 20 years. Tina's success leading the Office of Public Engagement, reaching out to people across the country and encouraging Americans from all walks of life to feel connected to this White House, makes her uniquely qualified to step up to this position. I look forward to working with her in the years ahead to develop effective strategies for the Let's Move! campaign, to broaden our work on behalf of military families, to continue the arts and cultural events in the White House, and to advance our international agenda."
Tchen, 54, is a Chinese-American and mother of two children: Emma, 14, a student at a private school in Washington and Patrick, a student at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her undergraduate degree at Radcliffe/Harvard and her law degree from Northwestern University. Before moving to Washington, Tchen was a partner at the Chicago office of Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom for 23 years.