Obama nominates REI exec Sally Jewell to Interior

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

President Barack Obama on Wednesday afternoon nominated Sally Jewell, president and chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), as secretary of the interior.

Obama, in describing the position during his announcement, held in the White House state dining room, noted that the interior secretary protects the country's lands, keeps an "eye on America's future," must create jobs, grow businesses and move the country toward energy independence.

Jewell, appearing with the president and current Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, said while she's happy in her current job, there is "no role [that] compares" to the position she has now been offered by the president.

Obama has faced criticism for nominating only white men to top administration positions at the start of his second term. Jewell is the first female nominee this go-around. An avid outdoorswoman who hiked in Antarctica for three weeks in 2011, Jewell is a Washington outsider with no political experience. She will boost the number of nominees with business backgrounds.

Obama noted Jewell's gender anecdotally during his announcement, saying that Jewell was pegged to pursue a career as a nurse or teacher like most women when she was young, but quickly found her "boyfriend’s homework more interesting than hers" and began to study engineering.

Earlier in the day, during Wednesday's press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney would not directly comment on Jewell bringing diversity to the Cabinet. Instead, he replied that the president "believes that diversity is important because it improves quality of debate and therefore the quality of decision-making."

Salazar announced last month plans to officially step down in March.

"I'm going to do my best to fill those big boots of yours," Jewell said to Salazar at Wednesday's announcement. "But I think I might get lost in your hat," she joked. Salazar, a former Colorado senator, is known for sporting a cowboy hat.