Obama nominates petroleum engineer/REI CEO to lead Interior Department

Sally Jewel

Updated at 12:09 p.m. MT, February 6, 2013

Sally Jewel
Sally Jewel, after being introduced by President Obama in the White House, Feb. 6, 2013

President Obama nominated Sally Jewell today to be the next Secretary of Interior. If confirmed by the Senate, she will oversee 500,000,000 acres of public land, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and many other agencies within the department. She will replace Ken Salazar, a former senator from Colorado, who has led the department since the beginning of the Obama administration.

Presently Ms. Jewell, 56, is the chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), a company that sells outdoor clothing and equipment. Born in England as Sally Roffey, Ms. Jewell moved to the United States in 1959 when her father, an anesthesiologist, took up a fellowship at the University of Washington. After she graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in mechanical engineering she worked for Mobile Oil in the oil fields of Oklahoma for three years. After that she became a petroleum engineer for Rainier Bank during a time when banks began to hire engineers to understand the value of collateral under the ground so that they could make intelligent loans. Rainier Bank was acquired by Security Pacific, and Ms. Jewell ran their business banking activities.

After 20 years in the banking industry she became a board member of REI, and in 2000 was hired as their chief operating officer. If confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of Interior, she will leave REI as their president and chief executive officer. In 2010 the company had 118 stores and $1.7 billion in sales. She represents a break from the past Secretaries of Interior, who have primarily been career politicians from the western United States.

Ms. Jewell sits on the board of the National Park Conservation Association, an organization that is not officially connected with the government or the National Park Service.

According to the Washington Post:

Jewell has pushed for land conservation in Washington state, where she lives, as well as nationally. She is a founding board member of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, which focuses on a stretch of land from Puget Sound across the Cascades, and helped lay out a plan for the National Park Service as a commissioner on the “National Parks Second Century Commission.”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.