Obama picks REI exec Jewell for Interior

Not a bad choice, for a couple of reasons.  Barack Obama will replace outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar with Sally Jewell, the CEO of outdoor sports and clothing giant REI, the White House will announce today:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday will nominate business executive and former engineer Sally Jewell to lead the Interior Department, an administration official said. …

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.

Politico notes the favorable past interactions between Jewell and the White House:

POLITICO reported last week that Jewell had emerged as a serious candidate for the job, noting that she introduced Obama at a 2011 event at the White House regarding the administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. She was also among the business leaders invited to the White House in 2009 to be praised for their efforts to lower their companies’ health care costs. …

A former Interior Department official quickly praised Jewell.

“Sally has overseen the growth of a $1.8 billion company consistently ranked among the best U.S. companies for which to work. An engineer by training, she is a practical, no-nonsense leader who is focused on results,” the former DOI official said in an email. “Will bring fresh perspective and new ideas: A problem-solver by nature, Sally brings people together to find new solutions to old challenges. She knows Washington, D.C., but she also has the much-needed perspective of a business leader who has forged a career outside of D.C.’s partisanship and politics.”

Perhaps.  Republicans will likely respect the business experience Jewell will bring to Obama’s administration, if only for its lonely example.  Jewell also brings the first hint of diversity to Obama’s second-term appointments, which will please Democrats embarrassed by the lack of such over the last few weeks.  Don’t expect Republicans to let the confirmation hearing pass without demanding answers on the Keystone XL pipeline, the EPA’s war on coal and regulatory adventurism, and the interference with fracking and natural gas production.  James Inhofe will certainly have something to say about all of these as ranking member of Environment and Public Works.

However, her resumé might also prompt some tough questions from the President’s side of the aisle:

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. Prior to joining REI in 2000, Jewell worked in commercial banking and as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corporation.

Honestly, if a Republican nominated an Interior Secretary who worked in the banking industry and Big Oil, you’d be hearing the howls from environmentalists across the entire nation. Will Jewell get a pass for being an Obama supporter?  Probably, but I’d still expect some muted criticism to be heard — and assurances will be proferred that Jewell will be a born-again activist as Interior Secretary under Obama.  Of that, there should be no doubt.