12/22/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Valerie Jarrett: 'Incredibly Plugged In,' For Better And Worse

Valerie Jarrett--pal of a U.S. president-elect, confidant of the country's most powerful mayor and veteran of corporate boardrooms--has perfected the art of networking, Chicago style.

Now that Barack Obama has drafted her to be a senior adviser, a key conduit between the White House and state and local officials clamoring for the president's ear, Jarrett's skill set will be put to the ultimate test.

She is "incredibly plugged in," said banker William Daley, brother of Democratic Mayor Richard Daley. "I can't think of another female on everybody's list for a corporate board seat."

The White House appointment means Jarrett, 52, will give up her job as chief executive of Habitat Co., one of the Midwest's largest property-management firms. She has already begun to step down from an array of civic boards and from corporate directorships that have brought her more than $350,000 a year in cash and benefits.

Although Jarrett's connections generally have proven profitable, they have also led to some notable embarrassments by enmeshing Habitat in the management of two dilapidated low-income housing projects. Those problems have recently attracted national attention because of Jarrett's ties to Obama.

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