Suzan G. LeVine - Confirmation Hearing Testimony to the Washington State Legislature
As prepared for delivery January 24, 2019
Chairwoman Keiser, ranking member King, members of the Labor and Commerce Committee: It is an honor to appear before you today as Governor Inslee’s nominee to be the 25th Commissioner for the Washington State Employment Security Department!
Also here today is my husband, Eric LeVine. His support, feedback, wisdom, and love are essential to my ability to do all that I do.
I come to this work from a family heritage of service. My father, may he rest in peace, served as an Army physician in Vietnam and my mother was a leader in community organizations where we lived. Public service is in my blood and, throughout my non-linear career, my North Star has been impact and making a difference in the world.
I launched my career with a college internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, learning the nuts and bolts of an industry that is core to Washington state’s economy. After graduating from college, I came to Washington state where, over the past 26 years, my path has woven from the private sector - both as a Director at Microsoft and a Vice President at Expedia - to the non-profit sector - as a co-founder of Kavana, an innovative Jewish community group and of the advisory board for the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (ILABs) at the University of Washington. For the last 16 years, my most fulfilling and critical role has been as a mom of two caring and amazing kids.
Most recently, I shifted into the public sector, serving as the United States Ambassador to the Swiss Confederation and the Principality of Liechtenstein from 2014-2017. It was in that position that, along with my husband who was very much my partner in my work, I truly came to understand the role that the dignity of work plays in all our lives. What I experienced there were nations that invest in creating talent, fostering a culture of career, and valuing people’s work. As a result, both Switzerland and Liechtenstein have among the highest quality of life in the world. My husband and I have been doing all we can to derive key learnings from our time there and share them here, especially since Switzerland and Washington state are comparably sized. In fact, our advocacy has helped catalyze an apprenticeship renaissance across the country. It’s that passion I gained for work and jobs that brought me to the Employment Security Department, or “ESD.”
I believe that non-linear career equips me with the experience, perspective, skills, relationships, and — most importantly — questions, to make a difference at the Employment Security Department.
ESD’s biggest areas of responsibility include running the Unemployment Insurance program; delivering re-employment services to thousands of individuals every year as a major partner in the state’s WorkSource system; analyzing and disseminating state labor market information; and administering the H2A and the Washington Service Corps programs. Soon, we will also launch and run the new Paid Family and Medical Leave program. Simply put, ESD is Washington’s jobs agency.
I believe that a good leader listens first. So, to really understand ESD’s muscles and those areas of responsibility, when I started in July, I immediately began traveling across our beautiful state, holding more than 30 town halls and listening sessions with our staff, partners and customers. I walked in Yakima orchards; spoke with inmates at Clark County Jail and Stafford Creek prison; met service members and their spouses at Joint Base Lewis-McChord; and sat in on focus groups with Snohomish County business leaders. I visited the Next Gen Zones in Spokane and Vancouver; met aerospace apprentices in Everett; visited half – so far - of our state’s WorkSource locations; learned about farmworker computer classes at Skagit Valley College; discussed Paid Family and Medical Leave with employers; listened in on unemployment insurance customer service calls, met with many different advocacy groups, and much more.
The efforts happening across our state to support people in job transitions and to help businesses meet their talent needs are profound and numerous. Together with the rest of the ESD executive leadership team, we have blended what we learned from those listening sessions with national and local insights to develop a new strategic plan that we are rolling out this week.
Our bold and achievable vision is nothing short of being the nation’s best and most future ready workforce with opportunities for all. This vision is both external and internal. We want this to be the vision for Washington state – but we also want this for ESD staff. To attain this vision, our mission is to provide our communities with inclusive workforce solutions that promote economic resilience and prosperity.
I look forward to applying to ESD my broad and non-linear experience in the private, public, nonprofit, and stay-at-home sectors, bringing our new vision, mission, values, and goals to fruition.
Senators, I am deeply humbled by this opportunity to lead an agency that plays such an essential role in the health of Washington state’s economy. The dearth of talent our businesses face as well as the economic uncertainty that still plagues our communities puts ESD at the epicenter of helping the state pursue its greatest opportunities and tackle its biggest challenges. I appreciate Governor Inslee entrusting me with this profound responsibility.
Madam Chairwoman and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today! I commit to serving with integrity and look forward to collaborating with each of you to continue to meet the needs now and into the future of all Washingtonians.
Thank you so much for your consideration and I look forward to answering your questions.