Alumni may fill three Obama Cabinet seats

by Greg Berger | 12/2/08 4:07am

LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 19: Director for Climate Change and Energy for Dan Reicher speaks during the National Clean Energy Summit at the Cox Pavilion at UNLV August 19, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Reicher announced that Google will invest more than USD 10 million in breakthrough geothermal energy technology. Political and economic leaders are attending the two-day summit to discuss alternative energy options for the country's future. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
by Courtesy of / The Dartmouth

The Department of the Interior is the federal government's principal conservation agency. The department oversees bureaus such as the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Kitzhaber, who served as Oregon's governor for the maximum two terms, would bring experience mediating battles between environmentalists and the state's industries, notably the timber industry, to the Secretary of the Interior position.

"A large part of the problem here is that we have framed the apparent conflict between economic activity and environmental stewardship as a mutually exclusive one, creating an 'us versus them' mentality-- a sense of separateness and a politics of scarcity, which inevitably creates winners and losers but no pathway to a sustainable solution," Kitzhaber said in a conference sponsored by Oregon Sea Grant, an organization of marine scientists.

The Secretary of the Interior would be responsible for addressing conflicts between business and environmental interests on the federal level. Former two-term Democratic Governor of Alaska Tony Knowles and Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., the former executive director of Colorado Department of Natural Resources, are other possible choices for the position, according to a list compiled by the Associated Press. The position is typically filled by someone from a Western state -- of the past 16 secretaries, only one has come from a state east of the Mississippi River.

Kitzhaber also has a background in health-care advocacy -- he is currently the president of the Estes Park Institute, which organizes educational conferences for hospitals, and in 2006, he founded the Archimedes Movement, an organization dedicated to updating "the outdated structure" of the U.S. health-care system, according to its web site.

"It is important for us to remember that the purpose of the U.S. health-care system is, or certainly should be, to make Americans healthier, not simply to deliver and finance health care. In other words, health care is a means to an end, not an end in itself," Kitzhaber said in a Nov. 7 video post on his blog directed to Obama on behalf of The Archimedes Movement.

Before becoming governor, Kitzhaber served one term as a member of the Oregon State House of Representatives beginning in 1978, followed by three terms in the Oregon State Senate from 1981 until 1993. He was president of the Senate from 1985 through 1993.

Kitzhaber graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in biology and went on to attend the University of Oregon Medical School. He then worked as an emergency room doctor for fifteen years.

Reicher, who served as an assistant to Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary under the Clinton administration, is currently the director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives at, a philanthropic offshoot of Google, that aims to find solutions to issues like climate change, poverty and disease. He is the co-founder of New Energy Capital Corp., a private equity fund that supports the development of renewable energy resources.

Reicher's extensive experience with environmental objectives, nuclear energy initiatives and energy efficiency plans make him a strong candidate for the Secretary of Energy position, according to The New York Times. His strong focus on the environment distinguishes him from past secretaries, who have focused primarily on nuclear weapons and energy, The Times reported.

Other potential candidates for the position include Democratic Governor of Kansas Kathleen Sebelius and former Rep. Philip Sharp, D-Ind., the current president of the Resources for the Future, an environmental and natural resource policy think tank, according to the AP. The AP does not list Reicher as a candidate.

Reicher majored in biology at Dartmouth, and went on to earn a degree from Stanford Law School. He lived with his wife and their three children in Norwich, Vt., for several years before moving to California in 2007. Reicher visited the College earlier this term to speak on a panel about the environmentalist legacy of former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller '30.

David Imamura '10, president of the Dartmouth College Democrats, said he was excited to hear that Kitzhaber and Reicher were being considered for positions within the Obama administration, adding that Dartmouth alumni have not been well represented in past presidential administrations.

"It's a good year for Dartmouth, and, personally, I think it's a good year for America," Imamura said.

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