First Lady Michelle Obama's chief of staff, Jackie Norris, is being sent to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in what is both a White House shake-up and an indication of the first lady's sway over the corporation that oversees AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve and the Senior Corps.
Observers believe Norris, who Obama came to know early in the Iowa caucus campaign, was forced out of the White House so that long-time Obama friend Susan Sher could take over. But those same observers see her appointment as senior adviser to the corporation as an overall win for CNCS, believing that Norris still will have a straight line to the White House.
CNCS remains without a CEO after the withdrawal last month of Nike vice president Maria Eitel, even before her nomination went to the Senate. Although the corporation's CEO must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, Michelle Obama reportedly has taken the lead in selecting the nominee.
Norris, who earned a master's degree from Iowa State University last year, wrote her thesis on community service and youth voting. She was Obama's Iowa campaign manager, delivering the state for him, and formerly was a high school government and history teacher. She has three children and is married to John Norris, chief of staff for former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, who is now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Sher is a longtime friend of Michelle Obama, dating to her work with the City of Chicago and the University of Chicago. A lawyer, Sher has advised the East and West Wings of the White House on legal matters. She has also served as a member of the health care reform task force and has led Jewish-outreach efforts.