Energy

Obama to Nominate REI CEO as Secretary of Interior

The head of the outdoor recreation giant is a surprising pick.

| Wed Feb. 6, 2013 3:00 PM EST

According to numerous reports, President Obama will announce on Wednesday that he is nominating Recreational Equipment Incorporated CEO Sally Jewell to serve as the next Secretary of Interior. Jewell, as Washington State native, is certainly a nontraditional pick for a job typically given to Western politicos, and the selection is drawing interesting responses.

(Full disclosure—I'm an REI junkie. The flagship store in Seattle is basically my happy place. You can get many products that are made with recycled materials or made in the US, and you can return anything. OK, end of disclosure.)

Environmental groups issued excited press releases about the selection, noting that Jewell and REI have partnered with both Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation on programs to promote the outdoors. "Whether it's been through her work to get more kids outside or her accomplishments in building a business that recognizes the passion Americans have to explore the outdoors, Sally Jewell has demonstrated that she knows just how important our wild places are to our national legacy and our economy," Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a press release.

But members of Congress from states heavily involved in energy development were much more cautious. "The livelihoods of Americans living and working in the West rely on maintaining a real balance between conservation and economic opportunity," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). "I look forward to hearing about the qualifications Ms. Jewell has that make her a suitable candidate to run such an important agency, and how she plans to restore balance to the Interior Department."

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the Public Lands and Environmental Regulation subcommittee of the Natural Resources Committee, said he has "reservations" about the Jewell appointment, including concerns that REI has "intimately supported several special interest groups and subsequently helped to advance their radical political agendas" (i.e., Sierra Club and NWF).

Before coming to REI, Jewell worked as an engineer for Mobil Oil and a banker. See Sarah van Schagen's Grist profile of Jewell from 2007 for more.