Gov. Gary Locke on Monday picked a Chinese-born educator and lawyer, Wallace Loh, as his new policy director.
Locke also spoke out against a proposed initiative to end state affirmative action, said he’s laying the groundwork for a gasoline-tax increase proposal and expressed optimism that new federal dollars will allow the state to expand health care for children.
For one of the pivotal appointments of his administration, Locke, the son of Chinese immigrants, turned to a Shanghai-born scholar who speaks four languages and holds a law degree from Yale and a doctorate in psychology from the University of Michigan. Loh’s childhood was spent in Peru and he immigrated on his own as a 15-year-old to attend college in the United States.
Loh, 52, will head the governor’s stable of advisers who keep track of education, natural resources, technology, welfare and other issues, coordinating the efforts of various agencies and preparing legislation.
Locke said he wants the policy shop to be “creative, proactive, bold” and to operate “outside the box” of conventional thinking if that’s what it takes to get the best ideas.
Loh is vice chancellor and law professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is a former administrator and professor at the University of Washington. He was dean of the UW Law School from 1990 until taking the Colorado post two years ago.
His wife, Barbara, and 7-year-old daughter, Andrea, stayed behind in Seattle and he has commuted home most weekends. Loh said he has loved academia and being on the track towards becoming a college president, “But I love my family and the state of Washington more.”
Locke said Loh’s new salary, $96,469, represents a pay cut of nearly $70,000.
Loh told reporters he considers Locke to be one of the most promising young leaders in the country and said he leaped at a chance to work with him.
Locke returned the kudos.
“He attracts bright, talented people who think creatively and can find innovative solutions,” the governor said. “He is a problem-solver who will play a critical role in our drive to make Washington schools the best in the nation.”
Loh succeeds Ann Daley, who is taking a less-stressful job on the Pollution Control Hearings Board. Daley wants to spend more time with her two teenage daughters. Locke said he’ll miss Daley, a former state budget director, legislative staff leader, director of the Higher Education Coordinating Board and deputy state treasurer who has been one of the most powerful women at the Capitol for years.
Loh will take over his new duties next month.
On other topics, Locke:
Criticized Initiative 200, the “Washington State Civil Rights Initiative” that would end government preferences based on a race, gender and national origin.
Locke said he sees no need for repeal or “drastic overhaul” of the current laws.
“It’s the wrong way to go,” he said.
With an occasional assist from affirmative action, women and minorities are doing very well in colleges and the workplace, Locke said.
Said transportation funding is “very high on our radar screen.” He said he has met with the state Transportation Commission and House Transportation Chairwoman Karen Schmidt, R-Bainbridge Island, and plans to help craft a bipartisan proposal and try to build public support for it. Lawmakers considered, but eventually did not act on, a proposed two-step, 7-cent increase in the state’s 23-cent-a-gallon tax.
Said the new federal budget should contain money to help the state expand its health care program for children. Locke said he doesn’t have dollar amounts yet, but said the deal with the White House and Congress makes it clear that the money must be used to enhance the state’s program, not replace state taxes being used for the current levels. Locke said he expects no other windfalls for the state.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.