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After sex harassment reports, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has a new director

Kelly Susewind, the new director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Kelly Susewind, the new director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Courtesy

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife — recently troubled by reports of sexual harassment, including a former manager convicted of rape — announced Saturday that Kelly Susewind has been appointed director of the agency.

"The public has high expectations for WDFW, and I'm excited about being in a position to deliver the results they deserve," Susewind said in a statement.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to appoint Susewind after interviewing seven candidates in May and narrowing the finalists to three candidates.

Susewind will earn $165,000 a year and take over Aug. 1, according to a news release.

"Today's appointment marks the beginning of a new era in the department's history," Commission Chairman Brad Smith said in a statement. "We have an immensely dedicated, talented, and energetic staff, and we are confident that with Kelly in the director's position, WDFW will achieve the high level of success we expect."

Susewind will oversee an agency with 1,800 employees and a budget of $460 million. He previously worked for the state Department of Ecology and as a private-sector environmental consultant. He earned his undergraduate degree in geological engineering from Washington State University.

Susewind grew up in the Grays Harbor County area.

He replaces acting director Joe Stohr, who filled in after former director Jim Unsworth resigned in February. Unsworth spent three years at the agency, the last marked by workplace-conduct scandals.

In August 2017, The News Tribune, The Olympian and Northwest News Network reported on a 2015 internal investigation that found some workers in the agency’s upper echelon often held or tolerated sexually explicit conversations at work.

The investigation also found the behavior, including at least one case of workplace sexual harassment, largely went unreported and unaddressed by the agency’s top leaders.

The report was sparked after a Fish and Wildlife employee accused another of raping her following an agency Christmas party in 2014.

A jury found the employee, Greg Schirato, a former division manager at the agency, was guilty of second-degree rape and first-degree burglary. The 2015 investigation found Schirato had sexually harassed a coworker and routinely talked about sex at work before the rape accusation.

Schirato denied sexually harassing anyone or misbehaving at work.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403, @rolf_boone
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