Bob Gillam, a prominent Alaska businessman, has thrown his hat in the ring to join President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet as Secretary of the Interior.
Gillam is the founder, president and CEO of McKinley Capital Management, LLC, an investment firm he founded in 1990 that manages approximately $7 billion in assets. He himself has been named as one of the wealthiest men in Alaska, with a net worth of approximately $320 million, according to Forbes. He also has been involved in efforts to halt development of the Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay region. Gillam graduated from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, where he was a classmate of Trump’s.
Rob Gillam, Bob Gillam’s son, said his father woke up the day after the election and realized this could be an opportunity to do something for Alaska and the nation. He and Trump have known each other since college and the two have similar backgrounds, though neither had held public office. With Trump in office, Bob Gillam realized this might be his chance to help his country and state, Rob Gillam said.
“He’s interested in … how he can make a difference in an area he knows a lot about,” Rob Gillam said.
Rob Gillam described his father as a businessman who believes that responsible development is important, but that “not every mine is worth it.” He would view development decisions the same way business decisions are made — balancing cost with gain. In the case of the Pebble Mine, the environmental cost was too much, running a risk to subsistence lifestyles and the environment that sustains them.
“(Bob Gillam) thinks like a hunter,” he said. “Hunters don’t go out there and kill everything, because then there’d be nothing to eat tomorrow.”
Bob Gillam has worked closely with the Alaska Native community in the Bristol Bay area and makes his permanent home near Lake Clark, voting in the Lake and Peninsula Borough elections. He maintains a good relationship with the residents there and keeps Native issues in mind, which is a major part of what the Secretary of the Interior would be tasked with in Alaska, Rob Gillam said.
Gillam said his father is aware that there have been a number of names floated for various cabinet posts, and there is not at this point a definitive list of candidates being vetted.
However, he said his father has been talking to people about the job, including people who have formerly held the position. The family is acquainted with all the members of Alaska’ congressional delegation and knew former Sen. Ted Stevens and his family well, Rob Gillam said. Although he said his father is aware that the position may be used to climb into other government positions, Bob Gillam wouldn’t have any interest in doing that — at 70, the Secretary of the Interior role is his only interest.
“He has thrown his hat into the ring,” Rob Gillam said. “… He would be honored to serve in that role.”
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