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The most influential business executives of the past 35 years: No. 32 took her love of the outdoors to the Interior

By Becky Monk
Puget Sound Business Journal
Sally Jewell has made a name for herself in the local business community — and on the national political stage — changing people's minds about the great outdoors

 

Sally Jewell has made a name for herself in the local business community — and on the national political stage — changing people's minds about the great outdoors.

Jewell, who is British-born, is now the 51st United States Secretary of the Interior. But she didn’t start her career with such aspirations.

The University of Washington graduate worked in the oil fields of Oklahoma before returning to the Puget Sound area and entering the banking industry. Rainier Bank hired her as its adviser in the oil and gas market. She went on to spend 19 years as a commercial banker for Rainier Bank, then Security Pacific, West One Bank and finally Washington Mutual.

In 2000, Recreational Equipment Inc. hired her to become its chief operating officer. Five years later, she became the co-op’s CEO. During her tenure, REI nearly tripled its business to $2 billion, and it gained a national profile as an outdoor retailer.

Jewell served on several boards, including Premera, National Parks Conservation Association, Retail Industry Leaders Association, YWCA, the Alliance for Education, and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, which she helped start.

She also served on the Board of Regents for the University of Washington. For her efforts, the National Association of Corporate Directors presented her with its 2008 Not-for-Profit Director of the Year Award for her cumulative contributions to governance in the nonprofit sector.

In 2013, President Barack Obama tapped Jewell to become U.S. Secretary of the Interior and she resigned her position at REI to accept the post. She now oversees the nation's national parks, Indian affairs and more.

In nominating Jewell, President Obama said, “She knows the link between conservation and good jobs. She knows that there’s no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress; that in fact, those two things need to go hand in hand.”

Jewell hasn’t forgotten the Puget Sound area. In fact she’s helping turn national attention to the region. Last year, she returned with Second Lady Jill Biden to lead a summit on working families.

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