Washington state human resources director Eva Santos died early Tuesday after her latest battle with breast cancer. Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office confirmed late in the day that Santos, 56, had passed away.
Gregoire herself is a breast cancer survivor and her office released this statement from the governor:
“Eva was one of a kind and was one of the finest people with whom I’ve ever had the chance to work. She was a rare blend of fun and seriousness, able to bring clarity and levity to any situation at the same time. She served on my cabinet for the past eight years and was a bright spark in every cabinet meeting and in every interaction. Everyone who worked with her knew her integrity, her skill, and her passion for service.“We have lost a great leader and I have lost a cherished friend. My heart is heavy and her family and friends are in my thoughts.”
Santos was director of the former state Department of Personnel until it was broken up as part of a five-agency consolidation into three agencies on Oct. 1, 2011. She retained her role as human resources director in charge of larger policy issues inside the Office of Financial Management. I’d talked to her during the agency shuffle in the fall of 2011, and she said at the time her health was fine.
But Gregoire spokesman Cory Curtis said that changed later this year, and Santos underwent new treatments over the summer months.
Gregoire has been issuing proclamations to state agency leaders, thanking them personally for their years of public service. She visited Santos last week to deliver the proclamation, Curtis said.
“All of us around here are a little shocked (though) we knew it was coming,” Curtis said. “Everybody was her fan.’’
UPDATE: The Governor’s Office just released other information about Eva Santos’ life. The native of Puerto Rico had worked for the state for 26 years, starting as a personnel officer at the Department of Labor and Industries where she worked her way up to serve as deputy director for operations during 1999-2003.
She later worked as director of Gov. Gary Locke’s Labor Relations Office, negotiating labor contracts with state employee unions until Gregoire named her director of the Personnel agency in 2005.
Before joining state government Santos had worked in personnel for Tacoma Boat and also served in the Army and Women’s Army Corps, “where she specialized in human resources,” a bio on file with the state says. “She is a nurse by trade and received her education from the Catholic University of Puerto Rico.”
Santos also won awards for her work including the Eugene H. Rooney award, given in 2009 by the National Association of State Personnel Executives for leadership in human resources, and the Governor’s Sustaining Leader Award, given in 1999.