WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has picked Sally Jewell, a business executive who has earned national recognition for her support of outdoor recreation and habitat conservation, to lead the Interior Department, the White House said Wednesday.
Jewell is the president and chief executive officer at the outdoors company Recreational Equipment Inc., known as REI, which sells clothing and gear for outdoor adventures with more than 100 stores across the country. Before joining Kent, Wash.-based REI in 2000, Jewell worked in commercial banking and as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corp. She took the top post at REI in 2005.
If confirmed, Jewell would replace current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who held the post throughout Obama's first term. Salazar announced last month that he would step down in March.
Jewell, 56, donated $5,000 to Obama's re-election effort. She became the first woman in Obama's crop of second-term Cabinet nominees. The White House faced criticism that the new Cabinet lacked diversity after Obama tapped a string of white men for top posts, but Obama promised more diverse nominees were in the queue for other jobs.
Jewell's confirmation also would put a prominent representative from the business community in the president's Cabinet. REI is a $2 billion-a-year company and has been named by Fortune Magazine as one of the top 100 companies to work for.
Jewell was born in England, but moved to the Seattle area before age 4 and is a U.S. citizen.
In 2011, Jewell introduced Obama at a White House conference on the America's Great Outdoors initiative, noting that the $289 billion outdoor-recreation industry supports 6.5 million jobs. She also appeared at a 2009 White House event on health care.
Under Salazar, the Interior Department pushed renewable power such as solar and wind and oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.