Gov. Jay Inslee announced today the appointment of Lekha Fernandes, director of the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE). Fernandes will replace Lisa van der Lugt who had been the director since 2018.
OMWBE is responsible for progressing statewide efforts to increase access, remove barriers, and promote accountability for the inclusion of minority- and women-owned businesses in public spending opportunities. The Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise program includes a comprehensive certification process, small business development support services, as well as compliance, accountability, reporting, and assistance to public agencies in meeting their diverse spending goals. The agency leads the Governor’s Subcabinet on Business Diversity and works with state agencies and institutions of higher education to promote equitable and inclusive purchasing practices. OMWBE also works with small businesses owned by people of color and women, and veterans to obtain more government contracts.
Fernandes has extensive experience leading high performing teams, conducting legal analysis, managing grants and contracts, and overseeing performance and budget programs. Prior to this appointment, Fernandes was the Southwest coastal regional director with the Employment Security Department. She led oversight of the agency and WorkSource programs. Prior to her time at ESD, Fernandes owned and operated a business managing workforce development grants as a subcontractor to the state of Michigan.
"Lekha's leadership, professional experience and background will make her an excellent director to the OMWBE. Her customer-focused approach will serve our agencies and small businesses well," Inslee said. "OMWBE is instrumental in helping small businesses owned by people of color and women and state agencies partner together and provide inclusive, equitable business opportunities. We are grateful for Lisa's leadership with OMWBE since 2018, and we know Lekha will build on the great work happening throughout the state. I would also like to thank Sarah Erdmann who has been serving as the acting director."
"I am so excited to be a part of the mission and vision of OMWBE as we create equitable systems for small businesses owned by people of color, women, and veterans to participate in government contracts," said Fernandes. "I am grateful for the incredible work already accomplished and am encouraged with where we will go as an agency and a state."
Lekha holds a juris doctor degree from Lewis & Clark College, Northwestern School of Law and a master's degree in business administration from Willamette University.
Fernandes' appointment goes into effect Sept. 12.