Obama to nominate REI CEO Sally Jewell as interior secretary

Sally Jewell, President and CEO of REI, introduces President Barack Obama during an event in the East Room of the White House February 16, 2011 in Washington, D.C. Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

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

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.

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.

Jewell is the first woman in Mr. Obama's crop of second-term Cabinet nominees. The White House faced criticism that the new Cabinet lacked diversity after Obama tapped a string of white men for top posts, but Obama promised more diverse nominees were in the queue for other jobs.

Jewell's confirmation would also put a prominent representative from the business community in the president's Cabinet. REI is a $2 billion-a-year company and has been named by Fortune Magazine as one of the top 100 companies to work for.

Mr. Obama is expected to announce Jewell's nomination from the White House this afternoon.

In an email, the White House said, "Sally Jewell is uniquely qualified to be Secretary of the Interior. With years of experience managing a nearly $2 billion a-year company, she will bring to the position integrity, keen management skills, as well as dedication to the Department's mission of managing our nation's lands. Trained as an engineer, Jewell has broad private sector experience in energy and finance, as well as a commitment to conservation."

Under Salazar, the Interior Department pushed renewable power such as solar and wind and oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The moratorium was lifted in October 2010, although offshore drilling operations did not begin for several more months.

The Interior Department manages millions of acres in national parks and forests, overseeing energy and mining operations on some of the government-owned land.

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