NEW YORK (September 17, 2014) – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) announced today that Rhea Suh, the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the U.S Department of the Interior, will join NRDC as its new president in January 2015. Frances Beinecke will retire as NRDC president in December after forty years with the organization, nine as president.
“It has been an unparalleled privilege to work for the President and Interior Secretaries Ken Salazar and Sally Jewell,” said Suh. “Now, I’m honored to join NRDC, our nation’s intrepid defender of clean air, safe water, and wild places.”
At DOI, Suh oversaw financial and management matters for the department, which is a $12 billion and over 70,000-employee enterprise. She was instrumental in launching a complex reorganization of the regulatory agency responsible for offshore oil and gas oversight in the midst of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Suh was a leader in developing and securing new policies for the Land and Water Conservation Fund that resulted in landscape-scale protections. She led a diversity initiative in the Department that included the creation of DOI’s first Chief Diversity Officer, trainings and a network of diversity champions.
“Rhea has the tenacity and talent to help our movement win on climate change,” said Frances Beinecke, NRDC president. “She understands that this is the greatest environmental, health and economic threat of our time, and she understands that this is the moment we can turn the tide. She will be ferocious in this fight, and I can’t wait to watch her take this on.”
The daughter of Korean immigrants, Suh was born and raised in Boulder, Colo., where early on she cultivated an interest in the environment and conservation issues – fishing for trout with her father in Lake Granby and camping out under the starry skies in Rocky Mountain National Park.
“We’re thrilled to have Rhea lead NRDC at this pivotal moment,” said Dan Tishman, NRDC chairman. “Her range of skills – from executive management to political and policy acumen – are essential to running one of the most effective environmental advocacy organizations in the world. Rhea’s long and impressive track record not only includes a multitude of environmental wins, but also a commitment to collaborative team management and diversity-building. We look forward to her leadership.”
“We face formidable challenges to the health and future of our planet, and the bedrock environmental laws that protect the air we breathe and the water we drink are under constant attack,” said Suh. “As the mother of a young child, I refuse to leave my daughter a world beyond fixing – and I know it’s not too late. NRDC has been a leader in helping to reveal the common sense clean energy solutions that will help us solve climate change. For the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, we must put an end to climate change pollution and create a sustainable future for everyone.”
Prior to her appointment to the Department of the Interior, Suh managed a $200 million budget at the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, where she was charged with planning a six-year initiative to build ecological resilience in key lands and watersheds in western North America. At the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Suh proposed, designed and managed its highly effective energy initiative, and she led the creation of the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the most successful land protection campaigns in North America. She also consulted for the National Park Service, where she developed educational programs for low-income communities, bringing National Park lessons to public schools. The Barnard and Harvard graduate also served as a legislative assistant to Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, for whom she worked on public land issues.
Executive search firm Isaacson Miller assisted NRDC in its effort to find a new president.