The staff shakeup in the East Wing – with Jackie Norris out as chief of staff to Michelle Obama – came because Norris wasn’t enjoying the bureaucratic part of the job and wanted a change, a senior administration official said.
Norris has been appointed senior adviser to the Corporation for National and Community Service. She’ll be replaced by Susan Sher, a longtime friend and mentor to Michelle Obama.
Norris, who bonded with Obama in Iowa as an organizational force in Barack Obama’s caucus victory, didn’t like the management and scheduling duties, and the intense social component of the job, the source said.
And the East Wing operation turned out to be bigger and more complex than anyone realized when they set up the office, the official said. Michelle Obama has become something of a media phenomenon, whose every move, and outfit, is chronicled – and who has done a variety of events that raised her public profile, such as planting a White House vegetable garden and speaking regularly at local schools and events.
Norris’ move, which was in the works for a few weeks, was a mutual one.
“The first lady and Jackie remain very close. Jackie got the job because Michelle loves her and wanted somebody that she could trust, and liked a great deal, in the job,” the source said.
“It’s no coincidence that she’s going to a government agency that Michelle Obama really cares a great deal about, and that is in an area where Michelle is extraordinarily active — national service and those issues," the senior official said. "Jackie is going to be much happier.”
The shake-up was notable for how quickly it occurred, barely five months into President Obama’s first term. Already the West Wing also has lost one senior official, communications director Ellen Moran, who resigned last month.
Norris’ replacement, Sher, has been described as "Michelle's Valerie" – a reference to Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser who is a close confidant of Barack Obama.
Sher was Obama's boss at the University of Chicago and had been providing legal advice for the East and West wings and working on health care policy as well and had been looking for more responsibility.
She is in the Obamas’ Chicago inner circle and lives in the same D.C. building as Jarrett, who is also close friend.