President Obama has selected Sally Jewell as his nominee for Secretary of the Interior Department, according to White House officials.
Jewell is the current chief executive of REI. Before joining the company she worked for Mobil and then spent about 20 years in the banking industry in the northwestern United States. REI has "grown rapidly under her tenure and now boasts roughly $2 billion a year in sales." The Seattle Times wrote a profile of Jewell back in 2005, in which business partners called her a "team player."
Obama's pick was celebrated and criticized by both Republicans and Democrats. If confirmed, Jewell will take the helm of the Department of the Interior from Ken Salazar, who has been squarely in the middle of the struggle between industry and conservation. The Interior has faced criticism for leasing out public land to the oil and gas industry while also attacked for being too cautious about providing leases for economic development.
Jewell is likely to face similar criticisms. As a former employee of Mobil, many environmentalists worry that she may be too friendly to the interests of the industry. On the other hand, she has spearheaded conservation programs throughout the Northwest and the oil and gas industry worries that she might slow development of key resource areas such as the Arctic.
The Obama administration was criticized by former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt for being too kind to energy outfits. He said that during Obama's first four years over six million acres of public land have been leased while only 2.6 million were protected.
Jewell is an unconventional choice for a position that has normally gone to politicians from the Western states, but Obama may be hoping that her history in both the outdoors industry and the energy industry will help blunt criticism from both sides. Either way, she will have her hands full.