Strickland Nominated to Key Interior Post
President Barack Obama has announced his intention to nominate Tom Strickland, a former U.S. attorney and lobbyist serving as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s chief of staff, as the department’s assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. It is the first top nomination for the department, according to New West Politics.
As assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, Strickland would oversee policy decisions for the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Salazar praised the choice. The two served together in founding and running Great Outdoors Colorado, a Colorado lottery-funded program that benefits state parks and open space.
“He would bring to the assistant secretary position the type of vision for our parks, wildlife, and open spaces that our country needs right now,” Salazar said.
Strickland would also continue his role serving as Salazar’s chief of staff.
“I have known and worked with Tom Strickland for more than twenty years,” Salazar said. “From the work we did together to create the Great Outdoors Colorado program to his service as U.S. attorney, his record and devotion to public service is second to none.”
Strickland served as U.S. attorney for Colorado from 1999 to 2001, and was a managing partner for the Denver office of the high-powered Hogan & Hartson firm of lawyers and lobbyists. He was also a member of the firm’s executive committee before leaving to serve as executive vice president and chief legal officer of UnitedHealth Group.
He had previously served as policy director for Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, a Democrat.
He mounted two unsuccessful bids as a Democratic candidate for Senate, losing both times in tough campaigns against Republican Wayne Allard. Strickland touted his environmental record in the campaigns, but he suffered from being labeled a “lawyer/lobbyist” by Republicans.
In one of his first moves as Interior secretary, Salazar brought Strickland on board as chief of staff and charged him with overseeing the ethics complaints that had dogged the department.
Nominees for other top Interior agencies, like the Bureau of Land Management and Minerals Management Service, have yet to be announced. In a conference call with reporters last week, Salazar said he and Obama “work very closely” in choosing nominees, and candidates for most of the top spots have been identified, but an “extensive vetting process” has slowed the process.
“I would say we’re about 50% of the way there,” he said. “I would say we have a long way to go.”