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Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett joins Lyft board

By Faiz SiddiquiThe Washington Post

Valerie Jarrett is joining Lyft‘s board of directors, the company announced Monday, the latest of President Obama‘s former staffers to enter the world of ride-hailing.

Jarrett, the former senior adviser to the president, joins the panel as an independent director, expanding Lyft’s board from eight to nine members. She will focus on addressing the problems of urban transportation, a Lyft spokeswoman said, drawing on her background as former commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development and chairwoman of the Chicago Transit Board, in addition to her eight years at the White House.

Lyft announced the appointment in a company blog post.

“I am a frequent Lyft passenger and have been inspired by the strong community (co-founders) John (Zimmer) and Logan (Green) have created that is dedicated to enlightened corporate values,” Jarrett said in a statement provided by Lyft. “We share a belief that reliable, affordable transportation positively impacts social mobility, and improves the quality of life in densely populated communities. I am thrilled to join the ride.”

Zimmer and Green, who sit on the board as the company’s co-founders, welcomed Jarrett’s appointment to the board.

“She will be a great partner for Lyft as we continue working alongside public transit agencies to provide upward mobility through transportation, reduce congestion, and ultimately reshape our cities,” Green said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Valerie to the Lyft family.”

Zimmer praised Jarrett for “perspective that will push Lyft forward as we work to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.”

Since leaving the White House in January, Jarrett has also joined the board of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, the Chicago Tribune reported in March. Obama’s longest-serving adviser during his presidency, she became an adviser to the Obama Foundation after he left office.

Several other members of Obama’s team have waded into the emergent world of ride-hailing in recent years. David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and then senior adviser, was hired to head Uber policy in 2014, but has since departed that role to lead policy for the philanthropist Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. Former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. was hired to lead an investigation into Uber’s corporate culture following a spate of high-profile company scandals this year.

Jarrett joints Lyft amid a period of growth largely stemming from Uber-related backlash — after the #DeleteUber scandal, widespread accusations of sexual harassment at Uber, a video showing founder and former chief executive Travis Kalanick berating a driver, and a series of other setbacks to Lyft’s chief rival.

Lyft touted in its blog post that it had given more rides so far this year than in all of 2016. Still, Uber remains the giant of the industry, with recent valuations at about $70 billion — nearly 10 times that of Lyft.

Jarrett joins eight others on the board, but becomes the first not to represent a major shareholder, according to Lyft. The other board members are: founders Green and Zimmer, Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitz, General Motors President Dan Ammann, Icahn Capital’s Jonathan Christodoro, investor and former Trulia chief financial officer Sean Aggarwal, Rakuten’s Hiroshi Mikitani, and Floodgate Fund’s Ann Miura-Ko.