REI head may be in mix for interior secretary job

WASHINGTON — The search for a new interior secretary may be coming down to a battle between two women from Washington state.

Enviros have been buzzing this week about a new candidate said to be in the mix for the job: Sally Jewell, head of REI, the hugely successful and eminently green outdoor-outfitting company with headquarters in Kent.

The enviros — especially the climbers, bikers and hikers — think she’s terrific and certainly has the recreational aspect of the job covered, in addition to having a stunning record as a businesswoman.

And it seems Jewell has been on the White House radar for some time, having introduced President Obama two years ago at a White House conference on “America’s Great Outdoor Initiative.” She noted that the $289 billion outdoor-recreation industry is the source of 6.5 million jobs.

But some enviros worry that she lacks the political experience and broad knowledge of the issues confronting the sprawling department. Its responsibilities include management of public lands; oil, gas and timber production; fish and wildlife; tribal lands; and federal policy on places such as Guam, the Northern Marianas and Samoa.

“She comes unencumbered by experience” in the political arena, one veteran enviro noted. On the other hand, maybe that’s not such a bad thing, thinking outside the box and all that.

The other Washington state woman in the mix for Interior is said to be former Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is also mentioned for a couple of other Cabinet jobs.

Meanwhile, Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, former president of Colorado State University at Pueblo, is said to be a leading candidate for secretary of labor, Reuters reported Thursday.

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