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Lisa Brown picked by Inslee to lead state Commerce Department

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 29, 2019

Lisa Brown, challenger to Cathy McMorris Rodgers for the 5th District House seat, holds up her ballot on Oct. 22, 2018 at the Spokane Tribal Gathering Place next to City Hall. Brown and her blue-clad supporters marched down Spokane Falls Boulevard, Wall and then Main to the downtown Spokane Public Library where the ballot box was located outside the building. Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Lisa Brown, challenger to Cathy McMorris Rodgers for the 5th District House seat, holds up her ballot on Oct. 22, 2018 at the Spokane Tribal Gathering Place next to City Hall. Brown and her blue-clad supporters marched down Spokane Falls Boulevard, Wall and then Main to the downtown Spokane Public Library where the ballot box was located outside the building. Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Former Washington State University Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown will make the switch from running for Congress to running the state’s Department of Commerce.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday morning he was appointing Brown, a former state legislator from Spokane who has a master’s and a doctorate in economics, to replace Brian Bonlender as the head of the state agency. Inslee described Brown as someone who “knows how to get things done.”

Brown helped secure a new medical school in Spokane, first as state Senate majority leader and later as chancellor on the WSU Spokane campus. She resigned her WSU post to run for Congress in 2018, finishing with about 45 percent of the vote against incumbent Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Brown said she was excited to be leading a state agency with a mission she considers very important, with a chance to develop some issues she heard during the campaign such as expanding access to broadband, affordable housing and community development.

It also gives her a chance to work with the Legislature, where she spent 20 years representing Spokane’s 3rd District.

Like her years in the Legislature, Brown said she’d have a residence in Olympia during the session, but would still have a home in Spokane. The department has major offices in Seattle and Spokane as well as Olympia, and programs all over the state.

“I’ll be on the road and in the air a fair amount,” she said.

Asked about the prospects about another run for Congress, Brown said that is a decision to be made “down the road.”

“This seems to be the right thing for me to be doing right now,” she said.

“Commerce plays a crucial role in the economic health and vitality of the state with initiatives around affordable housing, statewide broadband, green jobs and much more,” she said.

She starts the job on Feb. 11, replacing Bonlender, who has led the department for six years. Her annual salary will be $168,792.

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