National Conference of State Liquor Administrators

NCSLA Hall of Fame – Rick Garza

Director, Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board

NCSLA Hall of Fame - Rick Garza

Prior to joining the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB), Rick served 13 years as a staff member for the Washington State Legislature. His legislative assignments included Policy Analyst in the state Senate, House of Representatives Staff Director, and Staff Adviser to House and Senate leadership.

Rick joined the Liquor and Cannabis Board (then known as the Liquor Control Board) in 1997. During this time, he has held a number of influential positions including deputy director and legislative/tribal liaison that helped shape many of Washington’s policies regarding alcohol management. He now serves as the agency’s Director. His understanding of industry dynamics and complexities have ensured the best possible public engagement and decision implementation.

He has led the WSLCB through dramatic change. Following the historic Washington State voter initiative that privatized Washington's state-management of the distribution and sale of distilled spirits, Rick helped guide the agency through the closure of state retail stores and its distribution center, shuttering 168 locations and laying off over 900 loyal WSLCB employees. He oversaw the retooling of Washington's liquor control policy from one based on sales to one focused primarily on regulation of private businesses. In the wake of the initiative Rick calmed the industry by directly addressing the issues, overseeing the policy changes and constantly reassuring all. In the end the transition from control state to open state was smooth and successful, much in part due to Rick’s dedication and stewardship. Unfaltering leadership, receptivity and ongoing encouragement are hallmarks of Rick’s administrative approach.

During his career he has served NCSLA as the 2012-13 President, first, second, and third Vice President, and two terms as Western Region Chair. Throughout his tenure, Rick has introduced new perspectives to the NCSLA program and is lauded for his outstanding public speaking skills and consistent good nature. He is a best friend to many members of our organization and always avails himself as a consultant or confidante. Rick travels the nation providing the “best of the WSLCB” experiences to other states and municipalities that look to Washington as a unique regulatory model.

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