Obama Picks REI CEO Sally Jewell For Interior Secretary

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By David Zielenziger | February 7, 2013 6:02 AM EST

President Barack Obama will nominate Sally Jewell, CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., to be his second Secretary of the Interior, succeeding Kent Salazar. Jewell, 56, a mechanical engineer, has never held public office and would be the second female in the cabinet post.

The nominee received the Rachel Carson Award in 2009 from the Audobon Society and the Non-Profit Director of the Year Award in 2008 from the Natioanl Association of Corporate Directors. In 2011, she introduced Obama at the White House Conference on “America’s Great Outdoor Initiative” when she said the outdoor recreation industry was valued at $289 billion and provided as many as 6.5 million jobs.

Jewell’s been CEO of private REI, of Kent, Wash., in 2005. She had been COO since 2000 and a director since 1996. The company sells high-end gear and equipment, with annual revenue exceeding $2 billion. It also has 4.5 million members of a consumer cooperative.

In the past, Jewell worked for banks as well as for Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM), the No. 1 energy company, in Oklahoma and Colorado.

The Interior Department is responsible for hundreds of millions of acres of federal lands and deals with issues including oil and gas leasing, mineral rights and timber. It also runs the National Park Service.

Jewell, who was born in England but brought to the Seattle area at age 4, receieved her engineering degree from the University of Washington. She has contributed to Obama’s election campaigns.

By custom, the Interior post goes to someone from the West. Gale Norton, a former Colorado attorney general, was the first female Interior secretary. She served under President Ronald Reagan. Outgoing secretary Salazar, 58, had been a Democratic senator from Colorado. He was the first Hispanic American at Interior.

Jewell will face a confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Commitee headed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Obama still needs to find replacements for his energy, labor, commerce and transportation secretaries, as well as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

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