Obama’s Interior Sec’y Climbed in Antarctica (No Thanks, He Adds)

Photograph by Scott Cohen/AP Photo

Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) CEO Sally Jewell climbs the 65-foot rock climbing pinnacle at REI’s Seattle flagship store.

There’s a good basketball court at the Interior Department headquarters in Washington.

And Ken Salazar, departing secretary of the interior, has “a good jump shot,” according to President Barack Obama, who has played ball on that court a few blocks from the White House.

Out goes Salazar, in comes a new athletic-minded secretary.

But Obama won’t necessarily be playing at her sports.

The president today introduced Sally Jewell, CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc. — REI, to anyone who has ever shopped for a down vest or a mountain bike online or at her stores — as his nominee for Interior.

Jewell wanted to be a nurse or a teacher as a girl, he said. As an undergraduate studying to be a dentist, she instead became an engineer, later working in the oil fields, and then banking.  In eight years at REI, he said, she has revived a struggling retailer.

“She is an expert on energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future,” the president said in a State Dining Room event announcing his nominee. “She has shown that a company with $1 billion in sales can do the right thing for our planet.”

Jewell and her family are outdoorsmen and women, Obama said, and have “a vested interest” in the health of the environment.

She once spent a month climbing mountains in Antarctica, “which is just not something I’d think of doing” (too cold), said the president — having been “born in Hawaii”‘ (knowing chuckle added for emphasis).


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