Secretary Zinke Greets Employees on Interior's Birthday

Office of the Secretary
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Transcript: 

[applause]

Secretary Zinke: All right, everybody have a seat. We'll make this short because it's Friday. I want to introduce my wife, Lola.

[applause]

Secretary Zinke: We have a little dog running around. His name is Ragnar. I knew I was going to be a popular secretary, because we're going to make the building dog-friendly.

[applause]

Secretary Zinke: We'll get some rules out there, but we'll make it dog-friendly.

First of all, I am absolutely honored to be your secretary, and may I also say that, "Happy birthday, Department of Interior."

[applause]

Secretary Zinke: Well, for those that don't know me, I grew up in Montana, right next to Glacier Park, and I can tell you -- you can hear it from my lips, "We will not sell or transfer public land," [inaudible 1:06] .

[applause]

Secretary Zinke: My priorities, so you know, is from a military point of view. I'm troubled when the front line -- in the military, it's the sergeants and the chiefs; in the department, it's the managers, the rangers, and those on the front line.

I'm troubled when they don't have the right tools, the right equipment, and the right authority to make decisions that should be made in the front line. Trust across, what I call our empire, as you get outside of DC and go further west, there's a disconnect between trust. We should be the most trusted department in the government, because we hold our national treasures.

We are the stewards of the future. In that, as a steward, we have to make sure we're trusted, so we need to be the advocate, rather than the adversary. We're all going to work hard as a team to make sure that we restore trust, and to make sure that we're embedded in local communities, and the front line has the tools so they can make the decisions.

Those decisions might not be in the same view as the headquarters wants, and they may not be exactly how I want it here, but decisions are often best on the front line, where people are embedded in the communities through collaborative efforts, and the one-size-fits-all oftentimes fits no one.

So we're going to work really hard at being the department of yep.

[applause]

Secretary Zinke: The other part is our infrastructure. I knew we were behind in infrastructure when I showed up in the building, and even the park next door. The fountains don't work. It's not set up for dogs.

[laughter]

Secretary Zinke: Yet. But yep, we're going to make it so. Our infrastructure across -- and it's not just the parks. It's water, and it's our refuges. You look at the infrastructure, and we need to focus on making sure we repair and be the good stewards.

We're behind in infrastructure. I'm going to ask the president for the whole enchilada to make sure that we focus on rebuilding our parks, and make sure the refuges out there have what they need, and making sure that the water in the West...There's problems in the water in the West.

A lot of it is that our infrastructure is aging. A lot of the West, if you haven't been out there, I encourage you to go out there and visit Yellowstone, and visit Glacier, and the rest of our great parks. A lot of the water infrastructure was built in the turn of the 19th century, and we're wasting a lot of water. We're going to get to that.

Lastly, us. I come from, I played ball at Oregon, and I played ball at Oregon before Phil Knight wrote a check for $500 million.

[laughter]

Secretary Zinke: When I played at Oregon, I had Daffy Duck on the side of my helmet.

[laughter]

Secretary Zinke: But I've always been a team person, and the SEALs, I had the honor of being a commander at SEAL Team Six. I don't think my job is any more important than yours. In order to make a good team, we have to each do our duty, and dedicate ourselves.

I want you to be enthusiastic when you come in the morning. You don't have to cry when you leave at the end of the day...

[laughter]

Secretary Zinke: ...but I do want you to rededicate yourself for the incredible mission we have as a team. We are the stewards, and the expectation of the Department of the Interior is pretty simple. We are going to be the best department in the government.

[applause]

Secretary Zinke: From a philosophy, if we're going to do it, let's do it right. If we're not going to do it right, then we're not going to do it. That goes from when you come in the building in the morning. I expect our people that are greeting us to be friendly, courteous, enthusiastic.

I expect the chow in the dining facility to be the best. I expect our store over here to be the best. No matter what we do, we have to describe and dedicate ourselves to be number one.

I don't want to be number two. As a SEAL, I tried not to lose any battles, and I haven't lost any. I expect all of us not to lose. We're going to win in this.

Thank you so much for showing up today, and thanks for what you've done. You might hear some rumors about reorganization. They're true. The last time the Department of Interior has been organized was about a hundred years ago.

The reorganization is going to be bold and look out, just as Teddy Roosevelt did, look out a hundred years from now, and make sure we're organized to address the challenges of the future, and I need all your help.

Reorganization in the past has been, "We're going to strip the front line, and we're going to reorganize and consolidate." That's not the reorganization we're going to do. We're going to reorganize to address the challenges that we see coming, and there are a lot of challenges.

Think about what the Department of Interior should look like 100 years from now, as Teddy Roosevelt had the courage, 100 years ago with Pinchot, to organize for what our future is today. I'm going to ask the president for infrastructure. I'm going to fight for the budget.

I looked at the budget. I'm not happy, but we're going to fight about it. I think I'm going to win at the end of the day, and make sure that...

[laughter]

[applause]

Secretary Zinke: ...make sure that our values are articulated, too, and make sure that the administration understands how important it is to make sure we have the parks going, the bathrooms are clean, with good roads. The other concern, if you're in any parkland -- and I understand national parks isn't the entirety of the Department of Interior, but...

[applause]

Secretary Zinke: I see all the superintendents going, "No, no, no."

[laughter]

Secretary Zinke: But to a degree, the national parks and refuges are the face of Department of Interior, and for a lot of the millions of people that visit our parks every year, you're the face. Your uniforms, showing up every day, your professionalism, is how most of America views our department.

That's an enormous responsibility, but our parks themselves, many of our parks have record attendance, We have to now look at, too, in the vision of the future, is look at the public lands around our parks to make sure the trails interconnect, to take some pressure off the number of folks, and make sure the sewer systems work in our campgrounds, etc., etc., etc., and make sure that the species and the corridors, all that works.

I'm excited to be working with you. I'll leave you with this. If there's one thing that I would say best describes me, is probably if you've been to Yellowstone National Park, and you look at the arch, the Teddy Roosevelt Arch, ironically so, is inscribed in stone. Above the arch is, "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people."

Oh, by the way, on one of the right arches is "Erected by Congress." Great things, like, "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people," can only occur when both sides build for higher purpose.

That's America. I don't really care...

[applause]

Secretary Zinke: I don't care if you're a Republican, a Democrat, and Independent, a Libertarian. That doesn't make any difference to me. What makes a difference to me is you're an American, you love our country, and you love the Department of Interior. Thank you.

[applause]

Man: Well done, sir.

3/4/2017
Last edited 3/7/2017