Chief Operating Officer

  • Washington State Department of Natural Resources
  • Mar 27, 2020
Full time Administrator/Executive

Job Description



Recruitment Announcement


About the Washington Department of Natural Resources

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) protects Washington State’s heritage of natural resources by sustainably managing almost 6 millions of acres of timber, agricultural, aquatic, residential, commercial and industrial state lands. DNR has an annual operating budget of approximately $245 million and has more than 1,400 permanent employees with 550 additional staff hired during the summer fire season.


Each year, state trust forest, range, commercial, agricultural and aquatic lands generate more than $300 million for public schools, state institutions, county services and aquatic restoration. As stewards of these lands, DNR manages them to also provide the state with fish and wildlife habitat, clean and abundant water and public access to outdoor recreation.


DNR also:

  • Is the state’s wildfire fighting force, protecting communities against wildfire using firefighting crews and aviation resources.
  • Leads efforts to restore the health of 1.25 million acres of state, federal, private, and tribal forests through collaborative programs and landowner assistance.
  • Manages 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands and performs vital habitat restoration work.
  • Manages the state’s most precious natural areas.
  • Administers state forest practices rules.
  • Monitors geologic hazards, including earthquakes and tsunamis.


Washington’s public lands are a legacy that provides Washington State citizens with enormous environmental, recreational, and economic benefit.


Washington’s Trust Lands DNR manages 3 million acres of trust lands to provide sustainable revenue for county services and statewide construction of public schools, universities, and other state institutions.

Revenue is produced on state trust lands from the harvesting of timber and forest products, leasing agricultural and grazing lands, commercial leases, mineral leases and other activities.

Trust lands are simultaneously managed to provide habitat for many native plant and animal species. They also protect clean and abundant water, while offering public recreation opportunities statewide.


Managing Aquatic Lands DNR is steward of more than 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands—beaches and tidelands under Puget Sound, the coast, and navigable lakes and rivers. DNR manages these submerged lands to protect fish and other wildlife while also providing commerce, navigation and public access. Revenue is generated by selling geoducks and leasing aquatic lands for marinas, ports and other uses. In addition to protecting and restoring aquatic resources, aquatic revenues help pay for local projects that create public access to aquatic lands.





Protecting Forests and Public Resources

DNR administers the state’s forest practice rules which are developed by the state Forest Practices Board. These rules guide logging, road construction, brush control and other work in the woods on about 12 million acres of state and privately owned forestlands. DNR provides incentives to landowners and loggers so their activities support industry without damaging public resources, such as fish and wildlife, water quality and capital improvements.


Fighting, Preventing and Preparing for Wildfires

DNR is the state’s wildfire fighting force, with more than 600 professional firefighters who fight wildfires on about 13 million acres of private and state-owned forestlands. DNR works with other state, federal and local agencies to respond to wildfires, and offers local fire districts support with fire protection and safety equipment requirements.


Conserving Washington

DNR safeguards Washington’s natural areas - the finest remaining examples of native ecosystems in state ownership. Also within DNR is the Washington Natural Heritage Program, which studies native ecosystems and species. The program’s objective, science-based approach helps determine what needs protection and how to best protect it - information that landowners, public agencies and others rely on to prioritize their efforts.


A Major Recreation Provider

DNR-managed lands provide public access for diverse recreation opportunities in a natural setting. There are destinations for bicycling, bird watching, camping, fishing, hang gliding, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, motorized off-road vehicle riding and picnicking.


Producing Critical Geologic Data

DNR’s state geology maps and data are used by researchers, geologists, civil engineers and planners to inform industry and community development. Emergency planners also data to prepare for earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and landslides. DNR also regulates surface mine and metal mine reclamation, oil and gas drilling, gas storage and geothermal drilling.


About the position

For this important role, DNR seeks a strong, unifying leader who is deeply committed to the success of the agency. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) should be a strategic big-picture thinker, who is skilled at creating systems to make organizations operate effectively and developing and implementing strategies based on data-driven decisions and actionable metrics. The COO will actively coordinate with public- and private-sector partners to advance progressive plans, programs and responsibilities of DNR to serve the needs of the state. The COO will guide and support DNR’s senior leaders to ensure effective administration, financial management, and operations.


The COO will work closely with and report directly to Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, an independently elected statewide official. The Commissioner and COO should work closely as a team of “visionary” and “implementer/integrator.” The COO is responsible for DNR’s financial health and operations, activities and programs and legal, social and economic issues affecting DNR. The COO is held to a high standard for customer service, employee and community relations and is responsible for ensuring an organization-wide commitment to safety, diversity and inclusion in DNR’s workforce and activities.


Additional responsibilities include:

  • Implement the vision and mission of the Department of Natural Resources and provide strategic direction to achieve the vision and mission.
  • Work with the state Board of Natural Resources, which sets policy for the management of state trust lands.
  • Lead the department as it manages 5.6 million acres of state-owned lands, including forest, range, agricultural, aquatic, and commercial lands, to meet the department’s statutory and constitutional responsibilities, expand opportunities on commercial and industrial lands, and ensure commercial and public use along with the long-term health of our diverse and beautiful natural environment.
  • Expand renewable energy resources on state lands, address the challenges of climate change, and support rural economic opportunities that will increase revenues on state lands while increasing opportunities in our rural communities.
  • Work with the Forest Practices Board, which sets regulations concerning private timber harvests, forest road building, and other forest operations that are designed to protect public resources including water, fish, and wildlife, while maintaining a viable timber industry.
  • Lead the department as it implements various environmental rules and regulations which include the following:
  • Ensure the state Forest Practices rules are fully, fairly, and consistently implemented and enforced by department staff.  Improve landowner compliance with Forest Practices rules.
  • Regulate surface mine and metal mine reclamation, oil and gas drilling, gas storage, geothermal drilling, and underground fluids injection.
  • Protect working forests and working agricultural lands from conversion to non-forest and non-agricultural uses.  This includes supporting small forest landowners in maintaining their land as working forests, creating the Evergreen Forests Program to establish incentives and rewards to encourage private landowners to commit to keeping the land permanently forested, and acquiring the authority and funding for a new Community Forest Trust where lands at high risk of conversion would be acquired and managed for community benefits.
  • Monitor and research the causes of earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes and publish information on geologic hazards.  This is information that is critical to decision makers in government and the private sector and key to reducing the human and financial effects of natural disasters.
  • Implement an active Forest Health program to respond to forest health crises, especially in Eastern Washington, with information, education, and assistance, and through forest health treatments on state and federal lands.
  • Provide leadership to create a self-sustaining urban forestry program that preserves, plants, and manages forests and trees for public benefits and quality of life.
  • Provide leadership to expand opportunities for the state in recreation and natural resource conservation.
  • Maintain relationships with multiple constituencies such as:

▪ State legislators and members of Congress

▪ Washington tribes

▪ Labor

▪ Local government elected officials

▪ Federal agencies

▪ Neighboring state and provincial natural resource agencies

▪ Environmental and citizen groups

▪ Businesses and their associations, Economic Development Organizations


Current challenges and opportunities facing DNR


Organizational Health and Business Transformation  

DNR is working to improve the health of the organization and business operations, including supporting the skills and talent of the DNR team, promoting leadership development and advancement, and streamlining, standardizing, and diversifying business operations to achieve fiscal and organizational sustainability. Priorities include: 

  • Setting forth and implementing key recommendations from DNR’s Asset Management Analysis that will sustainably increase revenue opportunities on DNR trust lands and diversify DNR's trust land portfolio.
  • Optimizing communication and collaboration between headquarters and the regions, and between divisions and regions to improve implementation and efficiency and effectiveness of DNR. 
  • Continuing efforts to modernize, harmonize, and standardize core administrative functions in each program.
  • Addressing budget and operational challenges that impact performance and efficient and effective delivery of services.


Climate Resilience

DNR is on the front lines of climate change on our landscapes and waterways. The agency has worked hard to assess risks to climate change and develop priority responses. Critical work ahead will focus on developing and implementing specific responses in each of our programs as guided by the agency’s Plan for Climate Resilience, which was released this year.


20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan 

DNR’s forest health plan emphasizes partnerships with federal, state, tribal and local partners to prioritize and implement forest health treatments, such as mechanical treatments and prescribed fire, in landscapes with the highest need and relative risk. The pace and scale of this plan is significant -- 1.25M acres over the next 20 years -- and will require aggressive implementation to meet, including establishing efficient systems, strong relationships with federal, state, local and community stakeholders, and setting and tracking of metrics to achieve goal. 


Wildland Fire Protection 10-year Strategic Plan 

DNR’s wildfire strategic plan is a shared vision of the future of wildland fire management that meets the challenges of increasing uncharacteristic wildfires, a changing landscape, and protecting growing populations. Guided by this plan, DNR -- the state's wildfire fighting force – is expanding its team to respond to increasingly severe fire seasons. To be effective in meeting the growing demand for wildfire resources, DNR requires strong leadership to support with Wildfire Team in developing efficient and effective systems in operations, enterprise, finance, budget, and planning.


Salmon Recovery Strategy

DNR’s “salmon strategy” is a developing area of work that involves work across the agency and with stakeholders. The aim is to ensure DNR is significantly aiding salmon recovery through the strategic use of tools available to the agency in key watersheds, while pursuing solutions to big-picture challenges impacting salmon across the state. This work involves ensuring our divisions, regional staff in priority watersheds, and policy and legislative staff work in coordination to set objectives and make progress on specific programmatic goals. Coordination and planning for this cross-cutting work area will be ongoing, and specific programs will be identified over the coming months as focus areas where we can make the biggest difference for salmon recovery.


Included in this work is DNR’s urban forestry program which is fast becoming one of the most important work DNR does – as the state’s population grows, mostly in urban centers, the demand for healthy green space for communities is increasing.  This program is being re-envisioned and expanded in light of the growing need and the value our urban forests have for salmon recovery.


Rural Economic Development

Our working lands – and the communities that depend on them for economic security – are integral to our success as a state, and we must invest in their success. DNR is focused on using its resources and expertise to support rural economies and create good-paying jobs. Through the “Rural Communities Partnership Initiative,” DNR is funding innovative, community-led projects like a new derelict vessel recycling facility in Ilwaco, and there are dozens of additional proposals in the pipeline.  


The ideal candidate

DNR is seeking a seasoned leader as its next Chief Operating Officer. The new COO must be effective in building strong relationships and trust. They must be approachable and comfortable working as a convener and collaborator with public and private sector partners. They need to be skilled at navigating the political landscape of working for an elected official and developing a network of stakeholders that connects DNR to Washington State’s cities, tribes and communities. Knowledge of public service culture and a proven ability to develop public and private partnerships are essential.


The COO will need to bring an acute awareness of the external impact of DNR’s actions and decisions while providing stable management of the internal aspects of the organization. The ideal candidate must be able to cultivate a management team that strengthens the collaboration and cooperation and builds leadership with internal team and external stakeholders. The candidate must bring an ability to lead in times of change and facilitate the organization’s transition to a more inclusive and effective organization.


The COO should have experience taking visionary ideas and concepts, break them down into realistic actionable steps, and ensure that they're done efficiently. The successful candidate will be detail-oriented and successful at creating systems to make the agency operate better as a whole, whether it's with or without them. The COO will need to have experience with actually expanding and growing business operations and developing and implementing efficient and effective systems in operations, enterprise, finance, budget, planning, regulatory and other public services. The COO should have experience developing and implementing strategies based on data-driven decisions and actionable metrics.


The successful candidate will be capable of analyzing complex issues and demonstrate a high comfort level with controversial and sensitive issues that come with implementation of state-wide initiatives. Coordinating competing priorities and delivering professional quality technical information and strategic recommendations on a timely basis is critical. This position requires excellent problem-solving skills and an ability to seek solutions that achieve results.



Desirable Qualifications

A Bachelor’s degree (advanced degree is a plus) and a minimum of ten years of progressively responsible leadership experience with responsibility for a sizeable represented staff, policy development, facilitation, strategic planning, real estate, budgeting, human resource management, collaborative culture building and operational planning. Experience working with elected officials or a board of directors is preferred.


Application Process

Persons interested in this position must submit a cover letter and a current resume. In order to be considered for the first round of interviews please submit your application materials no later than April 20th, 2020 by visiting and clicking on “view open positions.” If you have questions regarding this announcement, please call Marissa Karras at 360-956-1336.

The annual salary for this position is competitive.


The State of Washington is an equal opportunity employer and is strongly committed to enhancing the diversity of its workforce. We will provide assistance in the recruitment, application and selection process to applicants with disabilities who request such assistance.


Live and Work in a Great State

At DNR you'll support the vision of a sustainable future by using your skills to protect and manage the state's natural resources for both current and future generations. As a DNR employee, you'll work with the public's interest in mind to manage more than 5 million acres of state-owned forest, range, commercial, agricultural and aquatic lands. But managing lands is only half of the story. DNR houses the Washington Geological Survey, a dynamic program that is the primary source of geological products and services in support of decision making in Washington. DNR also protects other public resources such as fish, wildlife, water, and provide public access to outdoor recreation. Two of the largest and most important state-wide resource protection responsibilities are fire prevention and suppression and overseeing forest practices.

With nearly 1,500 employees strong and dedicated to making DNR a great place to work, the agency’s mission is to serve Washington's lands and communities; build strong and healthy rural communities; enhance forest health and wildfire management; strengthen the health and resilience of state lands and waters; and increase public engagement and commitment to public lands and resources. At DNR employees approach their work through the lens of making Washington a better place environmentally, economically and socially for current and future generations.

Washington State offers a total work/life package of pay, benefits, flexibility and workplace opportunities to help you get the most out of your career and out of life. Washington State is a great place to work, play, and be a part of a community. Washington offers a quality of life that is unsurpassed. From the high- energy urban center of Seattle, one of the nation’s top-ranked cities, to the more relaxed pace of our rural communities, Washington’s distinctive Northwest lifestyle blends a progressive, creative culture with a casual nature.


The position is located in Olympia, the capital city of Washington State. Olympia is a vibrant city with a small- town feel conveniently situated between Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Mount Rainier and the rugged Cascade Mountains provide majestic scenery to the east while Washington’s Pacific Coast is just an hour’s drive to the west. Olympia enjoys the benefits of an engaged and educated community and a well-supported school system, augmented by two universities and a community college.


Job Level



Government- State/Provincial

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