Building the New Administration
White House Staff--Biographies as provided by the Transition*
Dates indicate official announcement.  *Additions by the editor in italics.
Transition Main Page
David Axelrod -- Senior Advisor to the President (11/19)
David Axelrod served as President-elect Obama’s Chief Strategist during the presidential campaign, and led Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign. A native of New York City, Axelrod graduated from the University of Chicago and spent eight years as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, where he covered national, state and local politics and became the youngest political writer and columnist in the paper’s history. Leaving journalism in 1984, Axelrod managed Paul Simon’s upset victory over incumbent U.S. Senator Charles Percy of Illinois. In 1985, he founded Axelrod & Associates, a political consulting firm known today as AKP&D Message and Media. Axelrod has worked for leading Democrats across the country, including Senators Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, and Herb Kohl, as well as Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, and Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, along with mayors of big cities across the country. He is married to Susan Axelrod, president and founder of Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE). They have three grown children.

Lisa Brown -- Staff Secretary (11/19)
Lisa Brown is the Executive Director of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. Lisa was Counsel to Vice President Gore from September 1999 through January 2001, and Deputy Counsel from April 1997 through August 1999. In addition to advising the Vice President on legal issues, Lisa served on the Executive Board of the President's Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities and worked closely with the Vice President's Domestic Policy Office on a variety of legislative initiatives. Lisa was an Attorney Advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice from June 1996 until April 1997. Prior to her government service, Lisa was a Partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm Shea & Gardner. Ms. Brown graduated Magna Cum Laude from Princeton University with a B.A. in Political Economy in 1982. She received her law degree with Honors from the University of Chicago Law School in 1986.  ...
Co-chair of the Agency Review Working Group for the transition team. 

Greg Craig -- White House Counsel (11/19)
Gregory B. Craig served under President Bill Clinton as Assistant to the President and Special Counsel. Prior to his appointment to that post he served for two years as Director of Policy Planning under Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Craig also worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy as Senior Advisor on Defense, Foreign Policy and National Security from 1984-1988. In addition to his service in government, Craig brings to the White House a wealth of experience in civil and criminal litigation.   ...Partner at Williams & Connolly, LLP.


Rahm Emanuel -- White House Chief of Staff (11/06)   *biography adapted from congressional website
Since taking the oath of office in 2003, he has been a strong, effective voice for Chicago in Congress...  In January of 2007, the new majority elected Emanuel to serve as Democratic Caucus Chair, the 4th highest ranking Member of the House Democratic Leadership. 

As Chair, Emanuel led the Democratic Caucus in fulfilling its campaign promise to pass legislation reflecting the values and priorities of the American people.  In the first 100 legislative hours, Democrats passed sweeping ethics reform, strengthened our national security, increased minimum wage, expanded stem cell research, lowered the cost of prescription drugs, cut interest rates on student loans, and ended the subsidies for the oil industry.

Emanuel began his career with the consumer rights organization Illinois Public Action. He worked on Paul Simon’s 1984 election to the U.S. Senate and in 1989 served as a senior advisor and chief fundraiser for Richard M. Daley.  Emanuel served as a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton. After leaving the White House, Emanuel returned to Chicago to serve as a managing director at a leading global investment bank.

Emanuel graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981, and received a Master’s Degree in Speech and Communication from Northwestern University in 1985. He is a resident of Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood where he and his wife are raising three children.

Patrick Gaspard -- Director of the Office of Political Affairs (11/21)
Gaspard currently serves as the Associate Director of Personnel for the Presidential Transition Team and served as National Political Director for Obama’s presidential campaign.  Previously, Gaspard served as the Executive Vice President of Politics and Legislation for Local 1199 SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, the largest local union in America, where he helped coordinate political activity and government relations on behalf of 300,000 members. In 2006, Gaspard served as the acting political director for SEIU International during the national union’s successful effort to help Democrats capture majorities in the House and Senate. In 2004, Gaspard was the National Field Director for America Coming Together. Gaspard worked for Governor Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and numerous congressional candidates, and campaigns going back to the historic Mayoral election in New York in 1989.  Gaspard is a former community organizer around school reform issues. He is married with two children.

Robert Gibbs -- Press Secretary (11/22)
Gibbs, a native of Auburn, Alabama and a graduate of North Carolina State University, began working with President-Elect Obama in April 2004 serving as Communications Director for his United States Senate race and later as his Senate Communications Director. Gibbs held the position of Communications Director for Obama’s presidential campaign until becoming Senior Strategist for Communications and Message during the general election. Earlier in his career, Gibbs served as Communications Director for Senator Fritz Hollings and worked on Senator Debbie Stabenow's 2000 Senate campaign.  He also served as press secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and worked for Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign.  Gibbs lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife, Mary Catherine, and their five-year-old son, Ethan.

Cynthia Hogan -- Counsel to the Vice President (11/21)
Cynthia Hogan has been a legal advisor to Vice President-elect Biden for nearly 20 years, first joining his staff in 1991 as his Counsel for Constitutional Law on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, then as Staff Director and finally as Chief Counsel, during his tenure as Chairman.  During her time working for then-Chairman Biden (1991-1996), the Committee successfully passed the landmark 1994 Violence Crime and Control Act and the Violence Against Women Act.  She also advised Chairman Biden during the Supreme Court nominations process for both Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.  Cynthia Hogan is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio.  She graduated in 1979 from Oberlin College and received a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1984, where she served as an editor on the Virginia Law Review.  She clerked for the Honorable Edward Cahn on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and was an associate at the Washington, DC law firm Williams & Connolly.  She currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband Mark Katz and their two children.


Valerie Jarrett -- Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison (11/15)
Valerie B. Jarrett became the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Habitat Company on January 31, 2007. From November 1995 through January 31, 2007, she was the Executive Vice President of The Habitat Company. The Habitat Company is one of the nation’s premier developers and managers of residential apartments and condominiums. Habitat has developed more than 17,000 housing units and currently manages more than 20,000 units. Before joining The Habitat Company in 1995, Ms. Jarrett served for eight years in the City of Chicago government; first as Deputy Corporation Counsel for Finance and Development, then as Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley and finally, as Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development. Prior to her City government service, Ms. Jarrett practiced law with two private law firms.

Ms. Jarrett currently serves as a co-chair of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team and as a Director of USG Corporation, Inc., Navigant Consulting, Inc. and RREEF America II. She is Chairman of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board of Trustees. She is also Vice Chairman of The University of Chicago Board of Trustees, the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee, and Metropolis 2020. She is a Director of the Local Initiative Support Corporation, The Joyce Foundation, The Metropolitan Planning Council and the Central Area Committee. She is a Trustee of the Museum of Science and Industry.

From 1995-2003, Ms. Jarrett also served as Chairman of the Chicago Transit Board. Ms. Jarrett served as Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Inc, from April 2004 through April 2007, and Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Stock Exchange Holdings, Inc., from February 2005 through April 2007. She also served as a Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago from January 2006 through April 2007. Ms. Jarrett served as Finance Chair for the 2004 U.S. Senatorial Campaign for Barack Obama, the first Treasurer of the Senator’s PAC, the Hopefund, and served as a Senior Advisor to the Obama for America Presidential Campaign. Ms. Jarrett received a J.D. degree from The University of Michigan Law School in 1981 and an A.B. degree from Stanford University in 1978.

Ron Klain -- Chief of Staff to the Vice President (11/15)
Ronald A. Klain has served in all three branches of the federal government.  Mr. Klain previously worked for Senator Biden as Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee; during his tenure, the Committe acted on significant anti-crime legislation and two Supreme Court nominations.  Mr. Klain later served as Staff Director for the Senate Democratic Leadership Committees under Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD).   In the executive branch, Mr. Klain served as Chief of Staff to Vice President Al Gore for four years; he also served as Chief of Staff to Attorney General Janet Reno, and Associate Counsel to President Clinton in charge of judicial selection.  Mr. Klain began his legal career as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Byron White, after graduating from the Harvard Law School magna cum laude.
Ron Klain has played a role on the debate preparation teams of every Democratic Presidential nominee since Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign.  In 2008, he took an unpaid leave of absence from his post as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Revolution LLC, to serve on the debate preparation teams for both Senators Obama and Biden.
Mr.  Klain is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana.  He now lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with his wife Monica Medina, Senior Environmental Counsel at the Pew Charitable Trusts, and their three children, Hannah, Michael and Daniel.

Chris Lu -- Cabinet Secretary (11/19)
Christopher P. Lu has worked for President-elect Obama in a number of roles over the past four years. He was Legislative Director and Acting Chief of Staff in Obama’s Senate office, as well as a policy advisor during the presidential campaign. Chris is now the Executive Director of the Obama-Biden Transition Project, where he manages the day-to-day operations of the transition. From 1997 to 2005, he was Deputy Chief Counsel to Rep. Henry A. Waxman on the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee (now the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee). A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Chris was a litigation attorney at Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C. (1992-1997), after a clerkship with the Honorable Robert E. Cowen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (1991-1992).

Jim Messina -- Deputy Chief of Staff (11/16)
Jim Messina currently Director of Personnel for the transition team of President-Elect Barak Obama.  Messina served as national Chief of Staff for Sen. Obama's presidential campaign.  Prior, Jim served as chief of staff for U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-Montana), Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and U.S. Rep Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY).  Jim has run and consulted on political campaigns across the country from Alaska to New York.   Messina grew up all over the Western United States and is a proud graduate of the University of Montana.

Ellen Moran -- Director of Communications (11/22)
Moran currently serves as executive director of EMILY’s List, where she oversees the national staff and charts the overall strategic direction of the organization. This was Moran’s second tenure at EMILY’s List, rejoining the organization from the AFL-CIO where she coordinated Wal-Mart corporate accountability activities and served in the Political Department. In 2004, she took a leave of absence from the AFL-CIO to direct independent expenditures for the Democratic National Committee, managing placement of presidential advertising and directed television, radio, mail, and phoning efforts in 20 states. In 2000, Moran directed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s $50 million issue advocacy campaign.  Moran's political experience includes managing campaigns for governor, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House; working on the national campaign staff of Tom Harkin’s 1992 presidential campaign; helping plan both Clinton inaugurals; and conducting international democracy work in Indonesia for the U.S. Agency for International Development. In 1993, Moran designed EMILY’s List’s campaign staff training program and served as its first director. Moran also oversaw EMILY’s List’s first foray into voter mobilization in 1994. A native of Amherst, Massachusetts, Moran holds a degree in political science and English literature from Wheaton College.

Jackie Norris -- Chief of Staff to the First Lady (11/21)
Norris joined Obama’s presidential campaign in January 2007 and served as the Iowa Senior Advisor during the caucus campaign, later serving as the Iowa State Director for the successful 2008 general election campaign in Iowa. Originally from Ossining, New York, Norris started her career in the office of Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter. She later served as Vice President Al Gore’s scheduler and events planner and as Director of Scheduling and Advance for HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo. Norris served as finance director for Governor Tom Vilsack’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign and as Gore’s political director during the Iowa caucuses during his 2000 presidential bid.  In 2002, Norris became a classroom teacher for high school history and government at three high schools in Perry, Ames and Johnston, Iowa. Norris, a 1992 graduate of SUNY: College at Geneseo, obtained secondary education teacher certification in 2002 from Iowa State University and Masters in Political Science in 2008. Norris is the 2005 award recipient of the James Madison Fellowship and serves as Vice Chair of the Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa Freedom Fund Board. Norris and her husband John are residents of Des Moines, Iowa and have five-year-old twin boys, Hunter and Cole, and a two-year-old son, Sam.


Dan Pfeiffer -- Deputy Director of Communications (11/22)
Pfeiffer currently serves as the Communications Director for the Presidential Transition Team. He began on Obama’s presidential campaign in January 2007 as the traveling press secretary before returning to Chicago to manage the press operation as Communications Director. Prior to the Obama campaign, Pfeiffer worked as Senator Evan Bayh’s Communications Director, Senator Tom Daschle’s Deputy Campaign Manager in 2004 and the Communications Director on Senator Tim Johnson's reelection in 2002. He has also worked for the Democratic Governors Association and the Gore-Lieberman campaign.

Desirée Rogers -- Special Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary (11/24)
Rogers is one of the most high profile executives in the Midwest and over the past 16 years has headed two major corporations. She is recognized as an innovative leader with a proven track record. Most recently, Rogers joined Allstate Financial as the President of Social Networking to develop an internet based community among the firm’s 12 million households focused on financial discussions among everyday Americans. In 1997, Rogers joined Peoples Energy, a Chicago based natural gas company serving 2 million customers and became its utilities president in 2004. Prior to this, Rogers served as Director of the Illinois Lottery.
Rogers serves on the Board of Directors of Allstate Life Insurance Company, Equity Residential and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. She is also Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of both the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry, and is a member of the 2016 Olympic Cultural Committee.
Over the past few years, Rogers was named one of the “Top 25 Women to Watch” by Crain’s Chicago Business (2007). She was also named one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful African American Business Women" (2006) and one of the “Top 75 Most Powerful Blacks in Corporate America” (2005) by Black Enterprise. Rogers earned a master of business administration from Harvard University and a bachelor of arts in political science from Wellesley College. 

Pete Rouse -- Senior Advisor
Peter M. Rouse, Chief of Staff to Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), has served as chief of staff to members of the United States Congress for more than thirty years. Before joining Senator Obama in December 2004, he was chief of staff to former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) for nineteen years. He also served a s chief of staff to Rep. Dick Durbin (1984/85) and Lt. Governor Terry Miller of Alaska (1979-83).
Mr. Rouse, as Sen. Obama’s chief of staff, was part of a small group of advisors who helped Sen. Obama through the process that led to his decision to run for president in 2008.
Mr. Rouse received a BA from Colby College, a MA from the London School of Economics, and a MPA from the Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Catherine (Cathy) M. Russell -- Chief of Staff for Dr. Jill Biden (11/21)
Cathy Russell is a long time advisor to Dr. Biden and advocate for the prevention of violence against women, both at home and abroad.  During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Ms. Russell served as Chief of Staff for Dr. Biden.  Previously, she has been a Senior Advisor to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on international women’s issues.  In the Clinton Administration, she served as Associate Deputy Attorney General.  On Capitol Hill, she was Staff Director of the Senate Judiciary Committee and also served as a senior counsel to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT).  She received her J.D. from George Washington University.

Phil Schiliro -- Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs (11/15)
Philip M. Schiliro is currently the Director of Congressional Relations for the transition team of President-Elect Barack Obama. Schiliro was a senior advisor to Senator Obama's presidential campaign. He has worked in the United States Congress for more than 25 years. Schiliro served as the Chief of Staff to Representative Henry Waxman and the House Oversight Committee in the House, and the Policy Director for Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and Staff Director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committees in the Senate.    

Mona Sutphen -- Deputy Chief of Staff (11/16)
Mona Sutphen is a member of the Transition team staff, and has been Managing Director of Stonebridge International LLC, an international strategic consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. that advises Fortune 500 and major multinational corporations on business opportunities and challenges worldwide.
From 1991-2000, she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, and among other assignments, served in the White House at the National Security Council (1998-2000).  She also served at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the Office of the High Representative following the Bosnian War, in the State Department human rights bureau, and at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. 
Ms. Sutphen holds a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and a M.Sc. from London School of Economics.  She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the co-author of The Next American Century (Simon & Schuster 2008). 


Moises (Moe) V. Vela, Jr. -- Director of Administration for the Office of the Vice President (11/21)
Moe Vela will bring a wealth of business management skill and outreach experience to the Obama-Biden Administration.  From 1996-2000, he served as Chief Financial Officer and Senior Advisor on Hispanic Affairs for Vice President Al Gore.  Most recently, Vela was the founder and a partner at The Comunidades Group, a multi-family acquisition and operations company headquartered in Denver, Colorado.  Vela is a graduate of the University of Texas with a B.A. in Government, received a J.D. from St. Mary’s Law School and is a member of the State Bar of Texas.  He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a Denver Civil Service Commissioner, appointed by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.  Vela is a native of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and hails from a pioneer South Texas family.

Melissa Winter, Deputy Chief of Staff to the First Lady (11/24)
As Mrs. Michelle Obama's first hire on the Obama presidential campaign, Winter has served in several different capacities, most recently as Mrs. Obama’s Traveling Chief of Staff. Winter was born in Chicago but her family later moved to La Jolla, California.  After graduating from Skidmore College, she moved to Washington, D.C. and began an 18 year stint on Capitol Hill. She worked for Norman Y. Mineta (D-CA) for seven years as his Staff Assistant and then Executive Assistant before working for Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT). Winter was Senator Lieberman’s Traveling Aide during his 2000 Vice Presidential run as well as his Director of Scheduling on his 2004 Presidential race.  She also served as Senator Lieberman’s Senate Executive Assistant. She will be returning to Washington, D.C. after spending the last 22 months in Chicago working for Mrs. Obama.