Today Gov. Jay Inslee announced the appointment of David Puente, Jr. as the director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, effective February 1, 2023. WDVA serves Washington state’s veterans and their families by connecting them to benefits earned while serving in the military.
Puente is an Army Veteran, serving in the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command and achieving the rank of Sergeant. He has served as WDVA’s deputy director since February 2020. In this role he led the State Veterans Homes program through the pandemic, which began just one month following his appointment. His operational leadership and knowledge helped to ensure that critical processes were in place ensuring residents in the State Veterans Homes had critical equipment and supplies necessary for their health and safety.
He was also instrumental in bringing the principles of organizational change management to the agency, which has experienced considerable change over the last several years with the addition of several new programs. Puente is focused on improving workplace culture. He participates as a speaker and facilitator with the state's Office of Equity to provide a space for state employees to discuss topics of belonging, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Puente began at the Department of Labor and Industries in 1992 as a fraud investigator. He then joined the Division of Occupational Safety and Health and served as a safety and health specialist and industrial hygienist, conducting occupational safety and health workplace inspections in the field. He continued to promote within L&I and served as the DOSH compliance manager for Region 5 in Central Washington, the DOSH statewide compliance manager, the DOSH deputy assistant director, and the director of Human Resources. In 2018, Puente was appointed Assistant Director for the Field Services and Public Safety Division and was responsible for 19 field offices throughout Washington.
He received the 2017 Governors Distinguished Management Leadership Award for a number of strategies and improvements made to culture and engagement of L&I’s workforce. In 2019, he earned certification as Certified Diversity Executive.
Puente has a Bachelor of Science degree in occupational safety and health from Central Washington University.
Puente enjoys serving his community by being a member of the Washington Officials Association, a member of the South Sound Football Official Association and South Sound Umpires Association, officiating baseball and football. He is a board member of Washington Youth Academy Foundation.
“David’s personal and professional experience are perfectly suited to ensuring the important work provided by WDVA in service to our veterans continues," Inslee said. "I appreciate his willingness to serve in this new role and I know he will provide the steady leadership we need during these times of tremendous change.”
“I am humbled and honored for this opportunity and look forward to working closely with the many Veteran Service Organization friends, partners, and allies who together make your Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs an incredibly diverse and forward-thinking agency,” Puente said. “My commitment to Washington’s veterans and families and to the team at WDVA is to continue our journey toward providing effective programs and services that honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans.”
Puente is stepping in to replace Director Alfie Alvarado-Ramos who is retiring this month. Alvarado-Ramos was appointed by Inslee in 2013. Over the past ten years, she opened a new State Veterans Home in Walla Walla, created programs to serve military spouses and LGBTQ+ veterans, and partnered with state leaders to develop a framework for suicide prevention throughout our state. She is also responsible for the creation of the Women Veterans Advisory Committee and ensuring women veterans have a voice in the veterans community.
“Alfie has been one of my most trusted and valued leaders over the past decade," Inslee said. "She gave so much of herself in service to our country and state, and I am among the many who are forever indebted to her. I appreciate every day she chose to dedicate herself to the work of WDVA and our veterans.”