President Obama nominated Sally Jewell for Interior secretary Wednesday. Jewell is president and CEO of outdoor apparel and equipment company Recreational Equipment Inc. But she is perhaps even more well-known for her work with environmental nonprofits and conservation groups. (AFP)
President Obama’s nomination of Sally Jewell for Interior secretary Wednesday was lauded by several retail and environmental groups and is expected to pass the Senate without much objection.
Jewell is president and CEO of outdoor apparel and equipment company Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), based in Kent, Wash. But she is perhaps even more well-known for her work with environmental nonprofits and conservation groups.
And as Interior secretary, Jewell would oversee the health and conservation of the nation’s public lands. If confirmed by the Senate, she will succeed Ken Salazar and will be one of the few female members of Obama’s Cabinet.
Obama praised Jewell’s “broad expertise” during the nomination Wednesday and her love of the outdoors.
The 56-year-old Great Britain native has served as CEO of REI since 2005, but she also sits on several boards, including for the National Parks Conservation Association and Initiative for Global Development.
NPCA President Thomas Kiernan says Jewell “knows how to work across the aisle.”
“When Sally speaks, people listen,” he says.
REI declined to release Jewell’s political affiliation but according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, she has made campaign contributions almost solely to Democratic candidates going back to 2008.
Jewell has won numerous environmental awards, such as the 2009 Rachel Carson Award for Environmental Conservation from the Audubon Society. Last year, she received the Award for Public Service from the Woodrow Wilson Center and was a named a 2012 Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Western Washington.
Jewell also worked with Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, launched in 2011, according to her biography provided by REI. And in 2009, she participated in a White House meeting on health care reform, discussing REI’s health benefits program.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who also chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that will hold Jewell’s hearings, called the nomination “an inspired choice” in a release the committee put out.
“Her record shows that she understands the importance of preserving our public lands for future generations, as well as the critical links between public lands, natural resources and economic growth,” he said.
Dirk Kempthorne, who was Interior secretary under former president George W. Bush, says Jewell will be a “terrific secretary of Interior,” citing the fact she’s “an outdoor enthusiast and brings that passion.”
Kempthorne got to know Jewell when the two worked on a public-private partnership while he was at Interior to fund national parks ahead of the parks’ 100th anniversary in 2016.
Jewell started her career as an oil industry engineer and has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington. She is married to Warren Jewell, and they have two adult children.
Before joining REI in 1996 as a member of the board, Jewell was a commercial banker for Washington Mutual, a savings bank.
Several groups from the retail and energy industries have expressed support for Jewell’s Cabinet nomination, such as the League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Western Energy Alliance, a nonprofit trade association of oil and natural gas companies.
Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, where Jewell serves on the board of directors, says the nomination is fitting for Jewell.
“She always said she’d never leave REI for another business job,” Kennedy says. “But I think she’s always been interested in and alert to opportunities for public service. This is an ideal situation for her, and for the country.”
Hadley Malcolm reports for USA Today. David Jackson, Jayne O’Donnell and Fredreka Schouten contributed.