Politics & Government

Inslee says he’ll keep prison, patrol chiefs

Two state agencies that deal with criminal offenders will keep their leaders when Jay Inslee takes over as governor Wednesday.

Inslee announced Friday that he would re-appoint Bernie Warner as corrections secretary and John Batiste as chief of the Washington State Patrol — rejecting a call by the state troopers union to oust Batiste and replace him with Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar.

Batiste, 58, worked his way up from cadet school in the patrol and also served stints outside the agency, including as an assistant police chief in Tacoma. Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed him soon after taking office in 2005.

At that time, the troopers association praised him as a good communicator. But when the union went public last week with its displeasure, it said he was out of touch with the rank and file.

Batiste denied that Friday, saying he hears overwhelmingly positive feedback from troopers and that “their needs are being met,” if not always their “desires.”

He said the agency has used data to make the roads safer. According to a report by the patrol, rates of deaths on Washington’s highways fell by more than one-fifth from 2005 to 2010, roughly mirroring a national trend.

“I’m proud of the way we have been able to bring down fatalities,” Batiste said.

Inslee’s announcement praised Batiste for “results-oriented leadership” and noted a number of national awards he and the agency have won.

Batiste’s responsibilities include a two-year budget of roughly $500 million and more than 2,400 full-time equivalent employees.

The troopers union represents about 1,000 troopers and sergeants. Union president Tommie Pillow didn’t return phone calls Friday for comment on Batiste’s appointment. He had said Farrar would be more reasonable in contract negotiations. Among those vouching for Batiste was the state sheriffs association, which praised him in a letter to Inslee from association president and Mason County Sheriff Casey Salisbury.

Inslee credited his other re-appointed cabinet official, Warner, with improvements to the state corrections system, including safer prisons. He said Warner has worked in the leadership of corrections departments in three states. Gregoire appointed him in 2011.

The pair are the first officials who Inslee has announced are keeping their jobs, although several of his other appointees are holdovers who are moving to new jobs — including Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant becoming a policy aide and liaison with the Legislature, and deputy Employment Security commissioner Joel Sacks moving to take over Labor and Industries. Inslee also will promote Marcie Frost to lead Retirement Systems and Alfie Alvarado-Ramos to lead Veterans Affairs.

He drew from the private sector to hire Dale Peinecke to lead Employment Security and Kevin Quigley as head of the huge Department of Social and Health Services. Other appointments so far include former political reporter David Postman as top spokesman, former legislative staffer and lobbyist David Schumacher as budget director and longtime aide Joby Shimomura as an adviser.

Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826