Gov. Jay Inslee today appointed state Rep. Ross Hunter as director of the Department of Early Learning, saying the veteran lawmaker and former Microsoft executive has a strong mix of skills and passion for the job.
“With landmark investments this year, Washington state is poised to be a world leader in early learning,” Inslee said. “Ross will ensure that those investments bring returns for our children, making sure every family has access to quality early learning opportunities.”
Hunter said it was a difficult decision to leave the Legislature after 13 years. But he said he was drawn by the opportunity to help build on earlier successes at the Department of Early Learning, which under the state’s new two-year budget received an additional $137 million in total funds.
“The opportunity to improve outcomes for hundreds of thousands of at-risk children is incredibly compelling,” Hunter said. “I cannot wait to get started. My first task is to get to know the department’s dedicated staff and connect with the dedicated and passionate stakeholders who have done so much to bring world-class early learning to Washington children.”
State Rep. Ruth Kagi said she was very pleased with the appointment.
“Ross Hunter has demonstrated a deep commitment to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children,” Kagi said. “He fully understands the promise and the challenges of implementing the comprehensive early learning legislation we passed and he helped author last session.”
State Sen. Steve Litzow, chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, said Hunter’s leadership will be especially important given the major new investments made by the Legislature and passage of the Early Start Act.
“Ross Hunter offers a unique mix of passion for early childhood education, knowledge of early learning policy and the legislative process, and management experience at Microsoft that we hope will take the Department of Early Learning to the next level for Washington children,” Litzow said.
Hunter replaces Dr. Bette Hyde, who announced her retirement in March after six years leading the department.
“I want to thank Bette again for all she’s done for the state,” Inslee said. “We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in today if it weren’t for her dedication.”
Hunter will start Sept. 8. The job will pay $150,000 annually.