The Washington Wine Commission announced earlier today the hiring of Steve Warner as Executive Director. Warner, a Washington State native, brings to the position a deep background in marketing, management, and international business.

Warner comes to the Wine Commission after spending the last ten years working for Merck & Co. Most recently, he was Managing Director of an eastern European business unit of the company, located in Bucharest, Romania. At this position, Warner managed a staff of 200, with a budget of $25M and annual revenues of $135M. He also brings extensive experience working in the Asia-Pacific region, having led teams in Seoul, South Korea and Bangkok, Thailand.

Steve Warner was born in Seattle and has also lived in Cle Elum. After graduating from West Seattle High School, he subsequently received a bachelor’s degree in biology from East Tennessee State University as well as a master’s of business and administration in international business and finance from Rutgers University.

Warner also brings to the Commission more than 20 years of military service. He served in the Special Operations Command as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy.

“I could not be more excited about joining the Commission and the industry at this particular time in our evolution,” Warner said of his new position.

The Wine Commission’s search for a new Executive Director came after Robin Pollard announced her resignation last October. In its search, the Commission received nearly 200 applications.

Olympia-based Karras Consulting performed and initial screen of applicants. A selection committee made up of board members from the Wine Commission, representatives from the Washington Association of Wine grape Growers, and the Washington Wine Institute then interviewed a preliminary group of seven individuals. This selection committee subsequently narrowed that group down to two finalists who were then interviewed by the full 13-member Wine Commission board. Warner was the unanimous choice.

Established in 1987 by the state legislature, the Washington Wine Commission is a marketing platform to increase awareness of the Washington wine industry. It is funded by annual assessments on grape and wine sales. Steve Warner will start as Executive Director of the Commission on March 12th.

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