Washington State Wine Commission Hires New Executive Director

Steve Warner, a marketing executive from Merck & Co., one of the largest pharmaceutical will become the new Washington Wine Commission executive director beginning March 12.

Commission spokesman Ryan Pennington said Warner has a deep background in organizational leadership, marketing, management and international business. Warner is currently in Bucharest, Romania, where he was working as managing director of an eastern European business unit for Merck.

Originally from Seattle, Warner received a bachelor’s degree in biology from East Tennessee State and a master’s of business and administration in international business from Rutgers University. He spent 20 years in the U.S. military in both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy.

“We have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us, and I look forward to working with our state’s growers and wineries to realize our full potential as a unified industry,” Warner said in a prepared statement. “I could not be more excited about joining the Commission and the industry at this particular time in our evolution.”

More than 200 applications were reviewed for the job. Board members said Warner is very personable and can bring extensive skills and talent for marketing and leadership, especially in global markets. However, Pennington said the first task is for Warner to “immerse himself in the Washington wine industry and get to know everyone.”

Warner will replace Robin Pollard, who announced last fall that she was leaving the commission to pursue her own business.

IMHO (in my humble opinion)

This is an interesting selection. Although he does not have wine industry experience, he has something very valuable—leadership, and leading people who market products, services and goods. He has an international perspective, which is something helpful to a state that wants to increase its wine exports.

The challenge for Warner is not to overlook his constituents in his own back yard while looking to increase Washington’s international wine business. But from everything I’ve heard, this guy has the goods. He’ll have to walk a fine line between his background of leading in the military, to the often less disciplined wine industry, but my guess is he’ll put things in ship shape.

Happy Tasting!

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