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Chris Liu retiring as DES Director


After 20 years of state service, Department of Enterprise Services (DES) Director Chris Liu has announced he will retire effective June 1.

“I want to thank Chris for 20 years of leadership in state government. Chris has been a valuable member of my cabinet since the start of our administration. The positive impact of his leadership on delivering public services across the enterprise will ripple throughout state government for years to come. I wish Chris all the best in a well-deserved retirement,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

Inslee appointed Liu as DES director in 2013. DES was established by the Legislature in 2011 to merge five formerly separate agencies to find innovative and efficient ways to provide government support services. Before coming to DES, Liu served as Director at the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE) and Washington’s Lottery (Lottery). Before that, he served as Director of Retail at the state Liquor Control Board (LCB).

“Working with people in state government has been a remarkable experience and a deep privilege. People are so dedicated and hard-working,” said Liu, who retired from a 30-year career in corporate executive positions before joining state government. “People are not doing it for themselves – they’re working for the good of others.”

Over his two decades of government service, Liu helped these state agencies find ways to improve systems, increase revenues, and save millions in taxpayer dollars, Inslee said. In particular, Liu was instrumental in making progress toward state priorities such as increasing opportunities for small and diverse businesses, and finding community-based solutions for thorny issues.

Business diversity

Liu has worked to remove barriers and increase opportunity for small and diverse businesses in state contracting, including:

  • Led the Business Diversity Subcabinet through foundational work from 2015 to 2019, when a statewide Disparity Study was completed. The study includes recommendations to address disparities.
  • Set in motion efforts to implement study recommendations and numerous initiatives to improve business diversity across the state enterprise and within DES, which is state’s lead procurement agency. These include updates to goods and services procurement policies, training and tools; improving support for utilizing diverse options on master contracts; and inclusion plans and improved data systems for public works contracts.

Community-based solutions

Liu’s approach to addressing long-standing state issues is to seek community-based solutions. For example:

  • DES partnered with local governments to transfer the semi-mothballed Northern State Hospital site to the Port of Skagit, which is developing a clean technology campus called the Sedro-Wooley Innovation for Tomorrow (SWIFT) Center on the 225-acre property. The transfer was almost five years in the making, involved numerous local and state partners, and is being hailed as a model of intergovernmental collaboration.
  • DES unlocked a path forward for long-term management of Capitol Lake – Deschutes Estuary, with stakeholders agreeing upon shared goals that should be satisfied by any long-term management alternative and a path forward to reach them. The next step, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), is currently underway.

State service

Prior to leading DES, Liu was tapped by Gov. Chris Gregoire to serve as director for OMWBE from 2012 to 2013, where he successfully led efforts to address the agency’s troubled certification system.

He led Washington’s Lottery from 2005 to 2010, bringing Powerball to the state, improving retailer participation 25 percent and boosting revenue at time when other states saw returns fall. Liu served as the director of retail for LCB during two periods: 2001 to 2005 and then again from 2010 to 2012. He and his team helped modernize the state’s liquor stores and improved the state’s distribution system, resulting in the largest increase in revenues in the state’s history of controlled liquor sales.

Following retirement, Liu plans writing projects, a transcontinental bike trip, and to build a Super STOL airplane. Liu is a Navy veteran. He also holds a private pilot's certificate and is an avid outdoor enthusiast.