Interior nominee appears a solid choice
To many people on the East Coast, the post of secretary of Interior is a second-tier Cabinet position. But to those of us who live in the West and depend so much on the public lands here for both recreation and economic viability, the head of the Department of Interior is among the most important Cabinet members.
That’s why President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that he is nominating Sally Jewell, the CEO of outdoor sporting goods company REI, to replace Ken Salazar as Interior secretary, is surprising and welcome .
It’s surprising because Jewell is not a politician — not a governor, senator, attorney general or other elected official from a Western state, as were so many of previous Interior chiefs.
Jewell is a Westerner, having spent most of her life in Washington state, where she reportedly enjoys a variety of outdoor activities. But her career history is decidedly private sector.
Since 2005, she has been CEO of REI, the popular outdoors store that caters to campers, hikers, bikers, skiers and more. The store was doing well before she joined it, and it has flourished under her leadership.
Jewell began her career as an engineer, working for what was then Mobil Oil Corp. in Oklahoma and Colorado, according to Reuters. Later, she became a commercial banker specializing in financing companies involved in oil and gas work.
That experience won plaudits from the Western Energy Alliance, a group of Rocky Mountain energy companies. “Her experience as a petroleum engineer and business leader will bring a unique perspective to an office that is key to our nation’s energy portfolio,” the alliance said in a press release Wednesday. The group also said it hopes “to see a better balance” of production and environmental protection on public lands with Jewell as head of the Interior Department.
But Jewell also has solid credentials in land conservation, advocating outdoor recreation and supporting national parks. That’s why several conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association, also lauded her nomination.
Jewell has worked with both Republican leaders and Democrats on conservation-related issues.
As we noted when Salazar announced last month that he planned to resign his Cabinet post, the Interior Department is a minefield of controversial issues related to public lands, energy development, recreation and resource protection, not to mention wild horses. Anyone who serves as head of that department will be on the hot seat much of the time.
But Jewell, with her energy and business background and her conservation bonafides, as well as her apolitical background, appears well poised to take on the difficult issues facing the department. Assuming nothing untoward turns up in her history, she is likely to be confirmed.
We wish her the best in this important post.