Gov. Jay Inslee announced Pat Kohler as the new director of the Department of Licensing today, pulling Kohler from the Liquor Control Board that is in the middle of writing rules for the state’s brand new marijuana industry.
Inslee is nearly done filling out his Cabinet. The governor named Chris Liu to lead the Department of Enterprise Services, the big agency that manages state-government real estate and deals with other back-office functions like purchasing, accounting and human resources. He replaces Joyce Turner, who stepped down as DES director last month.
Liu comes to the agency after a yearlong stint at the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises, and Inslee credited him with fixing problems there. He also ran Washington’s Lottery for five years. He has a business background that includes Walmart’s international business operations.
Kohler replaces interim director Teresa Berntsen at Licensing, an agency that most people deal with during their license renewals or car registration. It also handles business licensing. Inslee said Kohler arrives with more than a decade of experience as director of the liquor board that included training in lean management, which Inslee is promoting as a way to cut costs across state government. Inslee wrote:
Pat’s record demonstrates an understanding of how to improve performance, negotiate fair deals and provide top-quality service to the customers and taxpayers of Washington. The Department of Licensing directly serves every business and resident in our state and it’s important these customers feel they’re getting what they need in a timely and efficient manner. I have every confidence Pat will deliver on that expectation.
The governor had similar words about Liu:
Enterprise Services is really the backbone of support for every agency in Washington and is responsible for managing many of the state’s most important contracts and assets. With Chris’ proven ability to drive results, I trust he will ensure agencies and taxpayers are getting the best possible value.
Inslee also reappointed Rob St. John as director of Consolidated Technology Services. That leaves every major agency with a permanent leader except the Puget Sound Partnership.
Inslee is also naming leaders to some of the smaller agencies in state government. He named Shoreline public works manager Jesus Sanchez as director of the Center for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance, a new agency replacing the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Assistance.
The liquor board learned Tuesday night about Kohler’s departure and is considering how to go about replacing her, a spokesman said.
UPDATE 3:45 p.m.: Inslee told reporters today he wants a replacement at the liquor board soon. “There’s a lot of talent in that agency. I think they’re making good progress on a very challenging program and we’ll try to get that slot filled — urge the commissioners to help fill that slot as soon as possible.”