Miller Center

Ken L. Salazar (2009-2013) - Secretary of the Interior

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Kenneth Lee Salazar, a fifth generation Coloradan, was born in Alamosa, Colorado, on March 2, 1955. He grew up on a ranch alongside his seven brothers and sisters nearly 300 miles from Denver. Although his parents, Henry and Emma, received very little education, they heavily stressed the importance of education to their children. Salazar was able to earn a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Colorado College in 1977, and later he received a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981. In 1987, Salazar became the chief legal counselor for Governor Roy Romer while also working as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. During his time in Denver, he proposed several reforms concerning the operations of the oil, mining, and natural gas industries in order to protect environment. In 1998, Salazar decided to run for Colorado attorney general, an election that his father claimed could only be won if his son visited all 64 counties in Colorado. Along side his father in a pickup truck, Salazar made the long journey to every county in Colorado, and later that year he won the election. He served as attorney general from 1999 to 2005. He led efforts to make communities safer by strengthening state sex offender laws and addressing youth and family violence. Salazar earned the Profiles in Courage Award from fellow state attorneys general for his efforts and his dedication to preserving the rule of law. In a race for the vacant Colorado Senate seat left vacant by Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell's retirement in 2004, Salazar defeated Republican Pete Coors, the chairmen of the Coors Brewing Company. With a reputable interest in the environment, he has continued his efforts on the national stage by implementing a vision for a U.S. economy built on renewable energy rather than a dependence on foreign oil. After being nominated by President Barack Obama, Salazar was confirmed as the secretary of the Department of the Interior on January 20, 2009, by a unanimous vote of Congress. He resigned in March 2013.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Michael Nelson

Professor Nelson is the Fulmer Professor Political Science at Rhodes College, a senior fellow of the Miller Center, and the senior contributing editor and book editor of the Cook Political Report. He is the author of multiple books on American politics and government, including:

Resilient America: Electing Nixon in 1968, Channeling Dissent, and Dividing Government (University Press of Kansas), which won the American Political Science Association’s Richard E. Neustadt Award for Best Book on the Presidency published in 2014

How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation (LSU Press), which won the Southern Political Science Association’s V.O. Key Award for Outstanding Book on Southern Politics published in 2006