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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Former DSHS lead to become first woman to head state Department of Corrections

UPDATED: Thu., April 29, 2021

Strange  (Courtesy of Governor's Office)
Strange (Courtesy of Governor's Office)

OLYMPIA – Cheryl Strange will become the new Department of Corrections secretary, the first woman to hold the position, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.

Strange, the Department of Social and Health Services secretary, will take over on May 15 from Steve Sinclair, who announced his retirement in January. Sinclair announced his departure as the department dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks across the state.

In a Thursday news conference, Inslee said it’s rare to have found someone with such experience.

“I didn’t have to look far to know that we have the right leader, right here, already on our team,” Inslee said in a news release.

Strange has worked in DSHS since 2017. Most recently, she’s worked on the COVID-19 response in the state’s long-term care programs. In the Department of Corrections, Strange told reporters Thursday “we are not out of the woods yet with COVID, and we have work to do.”

“I now look forward to working with a team of individuals at Corrections who are highly committed to improving public safety and positively changing the lives of those in their custody and ultimately make for a better Washington,” she said in a statement.

Before working at DSHS, she served as the Department of Corrections deputy secretary from 2008 to 2011.

A national search will begin for a new DSHS secretary. Don Clintsman, current DSHS chief of staff, will be acting secretary until a replacement is found.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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