Great news from our nation’s cap­i­tal this morn­ing: At an event in the White House­’s State Din­ing Room, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced that he has cho­sen Wash­ing­ton’s Sal­ly Jew­ell to serve as the Sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or. Jew­ell, fifty-sev­en, is cur­rent­ly the chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Recre­ation­al Equip­ment Incor­po­rat­ed, bet­ter known as REI.

REI, as many of our read­ers know, is one of the Pacif­ic North­west­’s many fine coop­er­a­tives. It was found­ed in Seat­tle in 1938 by Lloyd and Mary Ander­son, and today, it has over eleven mil­lion mem­bers. REI is where adven­tur­ous Pacif­ic North­west­ern­ers go when they need to get out­fit­ted for a trip into the back­coun­try. Dur­ing my life­time, and espe­cial­ly since REI opened a store in NPI’s home­town of Red­mond, my fam­i­ly has bought plen­ty of qual­i­ty gear there: A‑frame tents, sleep­ing bags and pads, my Whis­per­Lite stove, hats, gloves, scarves, and rain flies.

We’ve also rent­ed snow­shoe­ing gear from REI.

As the years have gone by, we have come to depend on REI when we need­ed sport­ing and camp­ing gear. There’s real­ly no rea­son to go any­place else. REI stores are clean, wel­com­ing, and staffed with friend­ly employ­ees. No won­der, then, that the co-op’s sales have prac­ti­cal­ly dou­bled under CEO Sal­ly Jewell.

Sal­ly is an inspired choice for Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or. We at NPI applaud this nom­i­na­tion, and thank Pres­i­dent Oba­ma for choos­ing one of our state’s best and bright­est to run the Depart­ment of the Interior.

REI and Wash­ing­ton’s loss is our nation’s gain.

“Sally’s broad exper­tise and set of val­ues I know are going to serve her well as she takes on these new chal­lenges,” Pres­i­dent Oba­ma told reporters.

“She’s got a won­der­ful and sup­port­ive fam­i­ly who I under­stand enjoy the great out­doors just like she does. So they’ve got a vest­ed inter­est in mak­ing sure that the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or is doing the right thing. And when Sal­ly is con­firmed, I’m will­ing to bet that she will be the first Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or who fre­quent­ly hikes Mail­box Peak in her native Wash­ing­ton State and who once spent a month climb­ing moun­tains in Antarc­ti­ca, which is just not some­thing I’d think of doing — because it seems like it would be cold, and I was born in Hawaii.”

Out­go­ing Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary Ken Salazar, who is return­ing to Col­orado after four years in the job, was equal­ly effu­sive in his praise of the nominee.

“Sal­ly Jew­ell knows first­hand the inex­tri­ca­ble link between con­ser­va­tion and the econ­o­my. Sal­ly was a key con­trib­u­tor to you and to your entire team in the cre­ation of the Amer­i­ca’s Great Out­doors agen­da. She’s been a cham­pi­on of the Land and Water Con­ser­va­tion Fund and so many oth­er con­ser­va­tion issues of our time. And I also know that her suc­cess­ful busi­ness record and expe­ri­ence as an oil and gas engi­neer will serve her well as she imple­ments your all-of-the-above ener­gy agen­da, which has been such a key­stone to you over the last four years.”

Wash­ing­ton’s two U.S. Sen­a­tors respond­ed enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly to the nomination.

“Today marks a new day, with a leader who unique­ly under­stands the tremen­dous eco­nom­ic val­ue of our out­door econ­o­my,” said Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell in a state­ment. “With her busi­ness back­ground, Sal­ly Jew­ell is well-qual­i­fied to fol­low in the tremen­dous foot­steps of Sec­re­tary Ken Salazar.”

“Com­ing from the out­door indus­try, Sal­ly under­stands that pre­serv­ing out­door recre­ation oppor­tu­ni­ties is often the high­est and best use of our irre­place­able pub­lic lands. As CEO at REI in Seat­tle, Sal­ly tru­ly knows the con­nec­tion between America’s pub­lic lands and the bur­geon­ing out­door econ­o­my that sup­ports six mil­lion jobs across the Unit­ed States. I’ve appre­ci­at­ed work­ing with her  – from expand­ing Mt. Rainier Nation­al Park to sup­port­ing Wash­ing­ton State job growth.”

“Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has cho­sen an accom­plished leader as the next Sec­re­tary of Inte­ri­or,” agreed Wash­ing­ton’s senior sen­a­tor, Pat­ty Mur­ray. “I have enjoyed a strong work­ing rela­tion­ship with Sal­ly Jew­ell, who has proven to be an effec­tive CEO in the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty, and will bring that skill set to the Cabinet.”

“She under­stands the tremen­dous asset that our pub­lic lands are, par­tic­u­lar­ly to the mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar out­door recre­ation based econ­o­my. Addi­tion­al­ly, Amer­i­can fam­i­lies could have no greater advo­cate for their con­tin­ued use, enjoy­ment and pro­tec­tion of our Nation­al Parks and nat­ur­al treasures.”

“I look for­ward to work­ing with Sal­ly and Pres­i­dent Oba­ma as they shape and imple­ment poli­cies at the Depart­ment of Interior.”

“Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has made a wise deci­sion in look­ing to our deep pool of tal­ent in the Pacif­ic North­west, and nom­i­nat­ing Sal­ly Jew­ell as our next Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or,” said King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine.

“As the leader of an icon­ic out­door recre­ation busi­ness, Sal­ly has worked to pre­serve our nat­ur­al lands as a board mem­ber for the Moun­tains to Sound Green­way Trust and the Nation­al Parks Con­ser­va­tion Association.

“Her proven busi­ness suc­cess, and respect for the nat­ur­al world, give her the back­ground to suc­cess­ful­ly meet the many chal­lenges of man­ag­ing our pub­lic lands. My con­grat­u­la­tions to Sally.”

REI offered warm con­grat­u­la­tions to its CEO in a news release.

REI applauds Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­na­tion of Sal­ly Jew­ell, REI’s CEO and pres­i­dent, to be the nation’s Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or. Sal­ly is a remark­able leader, an excel­lent busi­ness per­son and a thought­ful stew­ard of our pub­lic lands and resources. We believe that she will do a superb job in this very impor­tant role.

Sal­ly has led REI as CEO since 2005 and dur­ing that time has pro­vid­ed steady lead­er­ship for the co-op and its thought­ful growth. Dur­ing her tenure REI has increased sales from $1 bil­lion to near­ly $2 bil­lion, added 71 stores, and great­ly expand­ed its online busi­ness. Under Sally’s lead­er­ship, the com­pa­ny has been named annu­al­ly to For­tune Magazine’s list of the Best Com­pa­nies to Work For.

Dur­ing her tenure, Sal­ly cham­pi­oned the co-op’s engage­ment in sup­port­ing vol­un­teer stew­ard­ship of pub­lic lands, as well as the efforts to man­age REI’s envi­ron­men­tal foot­print. And, because of Sally’s com­mit­ment to lead­er­ship devel­op­ment, REI will be in good hands as the co-op’s Board, upon her con­fir­ma­tion, con­sid­ers a successor.

Sally’s broad busi­ness back­ground, com­mu­ni­ty lead­er­ship, and her depth of knowl­edge of the range of issues man­aged by the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or will be of sig­nif­i­cant val­ue to the depart­ment and great ser­vice to the nation.

REI encour­ages Sally’s con­fir­ma­tion so that she can begin her impor­tant work on behalf of the coun­try and its nat­ur­al spaces.

The Nation­al Resources Defense Coun­cil, one of the nation’s lead­ing envi­ron­men­tal groups, cheered the nom­i­na­tion.

“Sal­ly Jew­ell has the mind of an engi­neer, the heart of an envi­ron­men­tal­ist and the know-how of a busi­ness­woman,” said NRDC Pres­i­dent Frances Beinecke.

“It’s not sur­pris­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma would turn to such a tal­ent­ed woman to bal­ance the respon­si­ble use of America’s pub­lic lands, the pro­tec­tion of these resources and the wildlife that depend on them… Jewell’s unique expe­ri­ence and her love of America’s out­doors will be invalu­able to the stew­ard­ship of the waters, lands and wildlife we’ve been entrust­ed to pro­tect for our children.”

Wash­ing­ton’s envi­ron­men­tal move­ment is (nat­u­ral­ly!) thrilled.

“Sal­ly has been a com­mit­ted leader on con­ser­va­tion, con­sis­tent­ly demon­strat­ing a deep under­stand­ing of how the preser­va­tion of pub­lic lands fuels our econ­o­my by cre­at­ing jobs through recre­ation and tourism, as well as what it means to pro­tect nat­ur­al resources for future gen­er­a­tions to enjoy,” said Joan­na Grist, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Wildlife and Recre­ation Coalition.

“We are for­tu­nate to have a Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or who can con­tin­ue to lead as our coun­try focus­es on pulling itself out of reces­sion and strength­en­ing our econ­o­my. No one is more pre­pared or more deserv­ing of this role than Sally.”

Jew­ell is the sec­ond Wash­ing­ton native to be nom­i­nat­ed for a posi­tion in the Oba­ma Cab­i­net; the first was Gary Locke, who served as Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s first Sec­re­tary of Com­merce and is now U.S. Ambas­sador to China.

We hope that once Sal­ly is con­firmed, she will ensure that the pro­posed San Juan Nation­al Mon­u­ment becomes a real­i­ty this year.

Pres­i­dents of the Unit­ed States have the abil­i­ty to des­ig­nate new nation­al mon­u­ments under the Antiq­ui­ties Act; but Pres­i­dent Oba­ma only used this pow­er on a hand­ful of occa­sions dur­ing his first term.

We’d like to see the Pres­i­dent act to pro­tect more of our pub­lic lands. The cre­ation of a wilder­ness or a nation­al mon­u­ment is one of the great­est lega­cies that a pres­i­dent can leave. As Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or, Sal­ly will be in the best pos­si­ble posi­tion to make con­ser­va­tion a pri­or­i­ty of the Oba­ma administration.

We extend our best wish­es to her as she takes on this new posi­tion, and to REI, as they look for a suc­ces­sor to fill the big shoes she’ll be leaving.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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