She’ll fill the final seat on the nine-person board.
Valerie Jarrett, one of President Barack Obama’s longest-serving staffers, is joining Lyft’s board of directors, the company announced on Monday. Jarrett, who was the senior adviser to President Obama and assistant to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs, was known to be one of Obama’s closest aides.
Jarrett, who is an adviser to the Obama Foundation, will be the final member of Lyft’s board of directors. She is joining eight other existing board members: Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green; General Motors’ Dan Ammann; Icahn Capital’s appointee Jonathan Christodoro; investor and former Trulia CFO Sean Aggarwal; Rakuten’s Hiroshi Mikitani; and Floodgate Fund’s Ann Miura-Ko.
The company says it was looking for a new board member for months and that Jarrett is a “natural fit.” That’s due in part to her experience with urban planning and tranist. Before joining the Obama administration, Jarrett served as the chair of the Chicago Transit board from 1995 to 2003. She also previously headed up Chicago’s department of planning and development as commissioner.
“I am a frequent Lyft passenger and have been inspired by the strong community John and Logan have created that is dedicated to enlightened corporate values,” Jarrett said in a statement. “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.”
In addition to her long career as a civil servant, Jarrett is no stranger to some of the labor dynamics of the ride-hail industry. At the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2016 at Stanford University, Jarrett interviewed ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Specifically, the two discussed what Uber was doing to ensure that people who were released from prison “had a fair shot at getting life back on track.”
Both Uber and Lyft have long opposed fingerprint background checks and Kalanick says that’s because they can often be unjust.
“We have systems in place that if you’re arrested you literally can’t get work even if you were found to be innocent,” Kalanick said. “When you see Uber in the news about ‘Oh, we’re opposing this kind of fingerprinting law’ or something like that, these are ways for incumbent industries to keep Uber from growing by keeping people from being able to get to work.”
Jarrett responded saying it’s important for people to realize the public sector can’t reform criminal justice alone.
“We really are looking to the private sector to make a pledge to do, for example, banning the box where you don’t ask the candidate if they’ve been arrested or convicted, you let the person make an impression on you,” Jarrett said. “You might find that there’s someone out there who is very talented but made a mistake for which they’ve paid their debt to society.”
Kalanick turned the tables and asked Jarrett a series of questions, including how she felt about being among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs compared to D.C. politicians.
“[It’s] heaven on earth,” she said. “I’m serious, because you actually do things. You get things done. You are innovators, you are creators, you make it happen. That’s not always the case in Washington.”
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