Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League, has been named to Washington Governor-Elect Jay Inslee’s transition team.

Gempler, the lone agricultural representative, joins 33 others on the transition team comprised of labor union leaders, business, conservation, health, and technology representatives, and politicians. The team is advising Inslee as he fills his cabinet positions, builds a staff, and converts his campaign platform into legislative and executive agendas in the coming weeks.

Participation in Governor-Elect Inslee’s transition process is an opportunity to have a seat at the table for agriculture, Gempler told Good Fruit Grower. “The primary objectives of the transition committee is to find the best talent to staff the cabinet and other high level positions, and to identify and give input on key issues likely to come up early in the term,” he said.

Transition advisory committees

Gempler said that the team has several advisory groups split along issue lines, and he sits on three of them. The first is the economics committee, which selects directors of the departments of agriculture, labor and industries, employment security, and commerce. Second is the energy and environment committee, which selects directors of the ecology department, Puget Sound Partnership, and commission appointments to fish and wildlife, parks, and utilities and transportation. Last is cabinet restructuring, which will examine the current structure and determine if any changes would be beneficial.

“The most important appointment to the agriculture industry is the director of WSDA,” Gempler said, adding that he will stress to the governor-elect that industry wants a well-run department that provides high-quality services efficiently and with a commitment to cost containment. “I will also stress how beneficial it is if the director of agriculture has firsthand experience as a commercial farmer. The director should also have a firm grasp on issues important to our industry, and must be a forceful and effective advocate on our behalf.”

He said that agriculture has less influence over other cabinet selections, but will stress the importance of having directors with experience in the private sector.

As head of the Growers League, headquartered in Yakima, Gempler works on behalf of agricultural employers, and is active in state and national farm labor issues, including farmworker housing, temporary guest-worker programs, and labor regulations. He is a past president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, member of the Stewardship Council of the Food Alliance, and treasurer of the Mt. Adams Health Foundation.