Biography of Sally Jewell, Former US Secretary of the Interior

Avid Outdoorswoman Sailed Through Confirmation

Interior Secretary Sally Jewel delivering a speech
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Delivers Speech on Conservation. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Sally Jewell served as the 51st United States Secretary of the Interior from 2013 until 2016. Appointed by President Barak Obama, Jewell was the second woman to hold the position after Gale Norton, who served under the administration of President George W. Bush.

As Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Sally Jewell knew the territory she oversaw -- the great outdoors. An avid skier, kayaker, and hiker, Jewell stood out as the only Cabinet agency head to have climbed Mount Rainier seven times and to have scaled Mount Vinson, the highest mountain in Antarctica.

Her knowledge and appreciation of the outdoors served Jewell well as she managed the activities of a 70,000-employee agency responsible for more than 260 million acres of public land -- nearly one-eighth of all land in the United States – as well as all of the nation’s mineral resources, national parks, federal wildlife refuges, western water resources, and the rights and interests of Native Americans.

During her term, Jewell was perhaps best remembered for her Every Kid initiative, which made every fourth grade student in the nation, and their families, eligible for a free one-year pass to every U.S. national park. In 2016, her final year in office, Jewell spearheaded a program expediting the issuance of permits allowing youth organizations to explore public wild lands on overnight or multi-day trips, particularly in less popular parks

Early Life and Education

Born Sally Roffey in England on February 21, 1956, Jewell and her parents moved to the United States in 1960. She graduated in 1973 from Renton (WA) High School, and in 1978 was awarded a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington. She is married to engineer Warren Jewell. When not in D.C. or scaling mountains, the Jewells live in Seattle and have two grown children.

NOTE: Because Jewell was born in a foreign country, she was not eligible to hold a place within the line of presidential succession.

Business Experience

Most outdoor activity enthusiasts know REI (Recreation Equipment, Inc.), and from 2000 until she took over as Sec. of the Interior, Jewell served as the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. During her tenure, REI advanced from a nice little sporting goods store to a nationwide retailing behemoth doing $2 billion worth of business a year and consistently finding itself among the 100 best companies to work for according to Fortune Magazine.

After graduating from college, Jewell used her training as a petroleum engineer working for Mobile Oil Corp. in the Oklahoma and Colorado oil and gas fields. While her work with Mobile gained her valuable experience in natural resource management, her views on the controversial practice of oil well fracturing or “fracking” are not known.

Between her days in the oil fields and the REI corporate offices, Jewell lived in the world of corporate banking. For over 20 years, she worked at Rainier Bank, Security Pacific Bank, West One Bank, and Washington Mutual.

Environmental Experience

Besides being an avid outdoorswoman, Jewell served on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association and helped to found Washington State’s Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.

In 2009, Jewell won the National Audubon Society's prestigious Rachel Carson Award for leadership in and dedication to conservation.

Nomination and Senate Confirmation

Jewell’s nomination and Senate confirmation process were swift and without notable opposition or controversy.

On February 6, 2013, ​Jewell was nominated by President Obama to succeed Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior.

On March 21, 2013, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved her nomination by a vote of 22-3.

On April 10, 2013, the Senate confirmed Jewell’s nomination by a vote of 87-11.