Ryan Zinke (2017-2019)
Ryan Keith Zinke was born in Bozeman, Montana, on November 1, 1961, and raised in Whitefish, Montana. He attended the University of Oregon on an athletic scholarship for football, graduating in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in geology. He subsequently received a master’s in business administration from National University and a master’s in global leadership from the University of San Diego.
Zinke joined the US Navy in 1985 and became a Navy SEAL. He served in the Navy until 2008. After his military career, Zinke turned to public service. He was a state senator in Montana from 2009 to 2013. He then served as Montana’s only representative in the US House of Representatives from 2015 to 2017.
After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, he nominated Zinke to be Secretary of the Interior, and the US Senate confirmed him in March 2017. During his tenure, he worked to enact the Trump agenda of rolling back federal environmental regulations, making policies that were more favorable to the oil and gas industry, and opening more land for mining. He supported reducing the size of several National Monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah. However, Zinke came under scrutiny for allegations of misuse of funds and ethics investigations. After the Democrats retook the House in the 2018 midterm election, they signaled their intent to investigate Zinke and the accusations of his misconduct. Zinke stepped down as secretary in early 2019 and took a job at a private investment company.