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President Obama picks REI CEO Sally Jewell to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior

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.