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Introducing Jeff Zients: The Man Behind the Scenes of Biden’s White House

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President Joe Biden has appointed Jeff Zients as the next White House chief of staff. The current chief of staff, Ron Klain, is stepping down after the State of the Union address on February 7th. The position of chief of staff is considered one of the most powerful in the US government. “I promised to make government work for the American people. That’s what Jeff does,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. The White House will be holding an official transition event in the coming days.

Mr. Zients’ return to the White House comes at a crucial moment for the US president as his staff begins to turn their attention to a potential re-election campaign in 2024. President Biden is also facing a special counsel investigation into the handling of classified documents found at his private office and at his home in Delaware.

Mr. Zients first joined the Biden administration when he was tasked with managing the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the distribution of vaccines in 2021 – a logistical public-health effort of historic scope. By the summer of 2021, more than two-thirds of Americans had received the first round of vaccinations against Covid-19.

The White House was criticized at times for its handling of the pandemic, particularly the scarcity of inexpensive tests during the omicron variant surge during the winter of 2021-22. When Mr. Zients left the White House in April 2022, however, Mr. Biden sang his praises. “Jeff put his decades of management experience to work formulating and executing on a plan to build the infrastructure we needed to deliver vaccines, tests, treatment, and masks to hundreds of millions of Americans,” the president said in a statement. “I will miss his counsel and I’m grateful for his service.”

But his departure from the White House was short-lived. Mr. Zients returned in the autumn to help the Biden administration handle personnel changes as it entered the second half of its first term. It turns out one of the biggest changes would be Zients himself taking over the chief of staff job.

Mr. Zients’ resume is extensive, although his time in government service is limited. He spent most of his professional career as a management consultant. He served as chair of the Corporate Executive Board and ran the Advisory Board Group, which he would later help take public with a multi-million-dollar stock offering. He also founded Portfolio Logic, an investment management firm focusing on the healthcare and business-services sectors.

His first government job came during Barack Obama’s presidency, when he served as deputy director of the White House budget office and director of the National Economic Council, an administration advisory group. He also helped the Obama administration fix problems with the rollout of the Obamacare insurance exchange system, including the chaotic launch of the program’s website.

Mr. Zients reported his net worth at around $90m on government disclosure documents in March 2021, which would make him the wealthiest of Mr. Biden’s top-level appointments.

His ties to the corporate world, including a stint on Facebook’s board of directors after leaving the Obama administration, has opened him up to criticism from some government watchdog groups. However, Mr. Zients also helped the 2020 Biden presidential campaign with financial management and co-chaired the president-elect’s transition team, which faced numerous additional obstacles because of Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge defeat.

To Washingtonians, the incoming chief-of-staff is also known for co-founding the locally beloved chain of bagel purveyors known as Call Your Mother, which boasts several colorful establishments around DC.

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