The state Department of Social and Health Services, Washington’s biggest agency, will get a new temporary leader this month as the department relaunches a stalled national search for a permanent secretary.
Bill Moss, an assistant secretary at DSHS, will replace acting secretary Patricia Lashway on May 16, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office announced. Lashway is moving to the Office of Financial Management, where she will be deputy director.
Lashway has led DSHS since February 2016, after former secretary Kevin Quigley resigned.
The state had been looking for a permanent replacement following Quigley’s departure, but halted the search in May 2016 to focus the department’s energy on problems at Western State Hospital, the troubled 800-bed psychiatric facility in Lakewood.
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Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee said the state is now rebooting its search for a permanent secretary at DSHS and hopes to have a new leader by late June or early July. The state has touted improvements at Western State in recent months — Gov. Jay Inslee told The Olympian editorial board Tuesday the hospital has filled 388 positions that had sat open — although some safety problems remain.
Candidates who previously applied for the DSHS job will be contacted again, and a consulting firm will be looking for other candidates, too, Lee said.
“Pat Lashway did a great job as acting secretary, and the governor has confidence that Bill Moss will step right in and provide the leadership and expertise necessary,” Lee said in an email.
DSHS runs an array of social safety net programs, including mental health treatment, housing assistance and food stamps.
The department has about 17,500 employees and a $14 billion two-year budget, according to the agency’s website.
Lashway’s departure comes after two other large state agencies — the Department of Corrections and the Health Care Authority — announced leadership changes last week.