(CNN) - Sally Jewell, the CEO of an outdoor gear company and expert in energy and conservation issues, was named Wednesday as President Barack Obama's nominee to succeed Ken Salazar as secretary of the interior.
She is the first non-male Obama has nominated to a secretary post in his second term. Obama has been criticized by some for selecting mostly white males for a variety of key posts, including the top spots in the departments of state, defense and treasury, although his cabinet makeup does not differ significantly from that of his predecessor President George W. Bush.
Obama praised her work on renewable energy in her current job as president and CEO of the outdoor outfitting company REI.
"She is an expert on energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future," he said. "She is committed to building a nation-to-nation with Indian country, 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 - the fact that those two go hand-in-hand."
She has served eight years at the head of REI. Before that, she worked in finance and started her career as an engineer with the Mobil Oil Corporation.
Jewell also participated in Obama's America's Great Outdoors Program, a project of the interior and agriculture departments to look at innovative land use models around the country.
Obama said he suspects the "toughest part of the job will probably be sitting behind a desk."
Salazar, a former senator from Colorado, announced in mid-January his plans to return home after four years in the cabinet. He held a key role in the Obama administration's response to the Gulf Coast oil explosion disaster in 2010, including implementing a six-month drilling moratorium which Republicans and officials in the region criticized as excessive.
Obama said the country was stronger because of Salazar's accomplishments.
The two former senators arrived in Washington together and were the only two Democrats new to the Senate in 2005.
He recounted they moved into the same building - one which was largely populated by people in their 20s. "So we were the two geriatrics in this building," Obama said.
Jewell's nomination now goes to the Senate for hearings and confirmations.