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Who Is Sally Jewell, Obama's Choice for Interior Secretary? Who Is Sally Jewell, Obama's Choice for Interior Secretary?

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White House

Who Is Sally Jewell, Obama's Choice for Interior Secretary?

Sally Jewell, CEO of recreational retailer REI, scales a climbing wall at the company's flagship store in Seattle in 2006. (AP Photo/Scott Cohen)()

photo of Catherine Hollander
February 6, 2013

Here is what you need to know about Sally Jewell, President Obama's pick to replace Ken Salazar as Interior secretary:

  • She’s a businesswoman. Jewell is president and CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., an outdoor and recreational retailer. REI is ranked 17th on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for” list, and the company boasts of its employees' community service and its conservation efforts. Before coming to REI, Jewell spent nearly two decades in the commercial banking industry. She started her career working as an engineer for Mobil Oil in Oklahoma and Colorado.
  • She’s no political operator. Jewell was appointed to the University of Washington’s Board of Regents by the state's governor twice, but has never been an elected official. She’s on a handful of corporate and nonprofit boards, including the National Parks Conservation Association. She did come to D.C. in May 2009 for a White House meeting on encouraging private-sector employers to offer health care incentives (Photos from the event show her sitting next to President Obama.) Still, it'd be tough to make the case that she's a political insider.
  • She’s a break from tradition—but not entirely. The Interior position is usually held by a politician from a Western state. Outgoing secretary Ken Salazar was a Colorado senator. His predecessor, Dirk Kempthorne, was the governor of Idaho, and Kempthorne was preceded by Gale Norton, who served as Colorado’s attorney general. Jewell is not a politician, but she is a Westerner, through and through, having grown up in an outdoorsy Washington family.
  • She might unite environmentalists and sportsmen. As head of an outdoor supply company that counts among its customers millions of the nation’s hunters and fishers, Jewell could represent a piece of the conservation agenda that often unites Democrats and some Republicans. When it comes to protecting the environment, a “greens and guns” alliance has formed, as environmentalists and sportsmen's groups join in efforts to protect wilderness areas. This could help generate bipartisan support for her in the often contentious confirmation process. 
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