CWU alumna to lead Hispanic affairs commission

January 14, 2017 GMT

When Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently asked Lisa van der Lugt to serve as acting executive director of the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs, she knew she had to accept.

“I was going through my dad’s things several years ago and found a certificate signed by former Gov. Dan Evans appointing him to the committee to create the Commission on Hispanic Affairs,” she said. “When I received the call from Gov. Inslee for this opportunity and I thought, ‘Wow.’ I guess you could say things have come full circle.”

The veteran political administrator, a Central Washington University alumna who grew up in Grandview, points to her late parents as the inspirations for her own career in politics.


Her father, Edelmiro “Ed” Garza, was active in politics and hosted one of the first Spanish-language radio programs in the Yakima Valley, while her mother, Amelia Garza, was the first Latina from Washington state to serve on the Democratic National Committee and was on the Grandview City Council for 13 years.

“My parents were activist parents,” she said. “They were both farmworkers. I was doorbelling with them when I was a child. I can remember going to farmworker camps with my mother when she delivered food and clothing. When I think of my parents I think of them as being role models for how to give back and take care of others.”

Van der Lugt, 55, attended CWU in 1979 and 1980, double-majoring in education and political science.

“I was unable to complete my studies at Central,” she said. “I ran out of money and had to go to work instead.”

While it was a path that ultimately worked for her, she still thinks about returning to school someday to earn her degree.

“When I speak to students, I always tell them, who knows what additional doors might have been opened had I earned my degree?” she said.

Prior to her new appointment, van der Lugt served as the manager of state efficiency and environmental performance at the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services. She is also the former manager of the Washington State Lean Transformation Conference and served as a special assistant to Gov. Inslee.

From 2004-2009, she was chief of staff to Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She also worked as chief of staff to then-Congressman Inslee from 1988 to 1995.

Van der Lugt will serve as the interim executive director while Inslee’s office conducts a search for a permanent director.