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“Where global proximity to power is considered, a Des Moines woman is now just one degree of separation from the political sun,” writes Yonder contributor Douglas Burns. He’s referring to Jackie Norris, Iowa schools teacher and now Michelle Obama’s chief of staff.  “Jackie Norris has the ear of Michelle Obama,” U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told Burns. “She’s going to have a very close relationship, and there’s no one closer to Barack than Michelle is.” 

The Norris family is having a good year. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has named Jackie Norris’s husband, John, as his chief of staff. Burns reports that Norris is a long-time political operative in Iowa. Most recently, Norris was chair of the Iowa Utilities Board. Norris, 38, was a senior advisor to Obama during the long nomination season that began in Iowa. She had worked with Vilsack when he was governor. That’s where she got to know David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist. 

What difference will it make to have Norris in the Whites House? The new First Lady is finding her role, Norris told Burns. “The beauty of being first lady is that there isn’t a job description,” Norris said, vaguely. “One of the things that Michelle is able to do is think through the way she wants to do her job. I think you will see that she will continue to be a fierce advocate for military families, for people getting involved in community service, continue to talk about working families and the issues that especially working families face on a daily basis.”

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