After firing first equity director, Inslee appoints a replacement

By: - August 23, 2023 12:29 pm
A Black woman with shoulder-length twists wearing a navy blue blazer smiles at the camera.

Megan Matthews, director of Washington state’s Office of Equity. (Gov. Jay Inslee’s Office)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday named a new director of the state Office of Equity. 

The move comes after Inslee fired the office’s first director earlier this year.

Megan Matthews, who will take the agency’s helm, has worked there since April 2021 as an assistant director. She became acting director in May after former director, Karen A. Johnson, was let go. 

In dismissing Johnson, the governor’s office cited high employee turnover and vacancy rates, budgetary concerns and other instabilities “in the work environment,” a spokesperson for the governor’s office, Mike Faulk, said in a previous statement. 

Matthews said in the announcement about her promotion that the office was busy “hiring to get fully staffed to do our critical work, implementing our budget strategy to be as efficient and impactful with the funds we have been allocated, and meeting our mandate to bring accountability to government and advance equity and justice for all Washingtonians.” 

Before working with the Office of Equity, Matthews researched poverty reduction, economic mobility and racial justice for the Department of Social and Health Services. She was also the inaugural chair of Washington State Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity, a resource group for state employees working to diversify leadership roles.

Matthews grew up in Tacoma and has a master’s degree in public administration from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, according to a governor’s office press release. 

The state Office of Equity was created by legislation Inslee signed in 2020. Its mission is to “promote access to equitable opportunities and resources that reduce disparities and improve outcomes statewide across government.”

A state investigation into Johnson found she engaged in “biased and insensitive conduct,” including commenting on people’s weight, a biased statement against Mexican people, referring to an employee as a “military hire” and telling employees to wear lipstick. Faulk told The Seattle Times that Johnson was not fired because of the investigation. 

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Grace Deng
Grace Deng

Grace Deng joined the Washington State Standard shortly after graduating from Northwestern University in June 2023. Grace, who currently lives in Tacoma, is a local Washingtonian who was born and raised in Snohomish County. She has previous experience covering statehouse politics and policy for the Minnesota Reformer and the USA TODAY Ohio Network, which includes the Columbus Dispatch, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Akron-Beacon Journal.