Our Team

Portrait of Dr. J

Karen Johnson

PhD (Dr. J) (she|her|Beloved)

Inaugural Director

Dr. Karen A. Johnson, perhaps best known as an inspiring, authentic, servant leader who keeps it real and 100, has decades of experience in both managerial and leadership roles in the non-profit sector and in federal and state government. Before serving as the inaugural Director of the Washington State Office of Equity, she served as the first Equity & Inclusion Administrator for the Washington State Department of Corrections responsible for increasing awareness and incorporating equity, diversity, inclusion, and respect throughout the agency and the direct supervision of the Civil Rights Investigations team and the Recruitment teams responsible for hiring correctional officers and hard-to-fill medical profession positions.

Ironically, after gaining lived experience as an unemployment benefits and food assistance recipient, Dr. Johnson began her career with the Washington State Employment Security Department as an Unemployment Insurance Benefits Trainer where she planned, developed, and delivered training programs to deliver timely payment of UI benefits and a fair and stable UI system. She is credited for helping to design the unit’s first performance management system to meet agency goals. After a reduction in force, she was promoted into the role of Strategic Operations Manager, advising executive leaders on strategic planning and continuous quality improvement related to workforce development.

She later transitioned to the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services, Economic Services Administration, Community Services Division (CSD) as the Strategic Initiatives Executive, providing collaborative leadership for building a respectful, equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace culture to achieve organizational excellence and results. She is recognized for starting CSD’s RESPECT© culture work. Karen holds a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, a master’s in public administration, and doctorate in Urban Services. She is a Certified Diversity Executive and member of the 2018 Leadership Women America cohort.

Outside of work, she rests, thinks, reads, and volunteers her time with people, places, and purposes focused on justice. 

Dr. J says, “My answer to life’s three critical questions, - why am I here? how will I relate in this context called society, and, what will I leave as a legacy, - is this: I will spend the rest of my days working toward equity and justice for all until justice rolls down as waters. … for generations yet unborn. Shumawish a tipashumawis. Si Dios Quiere. Selah. Ashe or Asé. Shalom. Aleichem shalom. A hui hou, malama pono!”

Head Shot of Carolyn Cole

Carolyn Cole

Assistant Director - Equity, Access and Belonging she/her

Assistant Director - Equity, Access and Belonging

Carolyn Cole is a licensed attorney and graduate of New York University (NYU) School of Law. She has been a leader in equity, access, and belonging work for over 10 years. She has greatly enjoyed her time serving in Washington state government. Most recently, she served as Chief, Access & Inclusion Planning, at the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS), authoring their Language Access Plan and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Plan. Before DSHS, she served as the Court Program Analyst for the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission, a commission of the Washington State Supreme Court dedicated to eliminating racial bias and disproportionality in the justice system.

She is a diligent meditator and believes wellness is key. She enjoys spending time with her two dogs, friends, and family, and she is learning how to do more gluten-free baking. She is thrilled to be joining the Washington State Office of Equity!

Portrait of Cindy

Cynthia (Cindy) Varley

she/her

Executive Assistant

Cindy Varley is a Clark County native currently residing and teleworking in Ridgefield.  Cindy has served the State of Washington for over 12 years supporting Directors with a focus on increasing office efficiency, providing leadership in project management, and effective communication. Prior to the Office of Equity, she was an Administrative Assistant and the Washington State School the Blind and Department of Fish and Wildlife. Cindy was a board member of the Interagency Committee of State Employed Women and has earned her Certified Diversity Executive credential.

Portrait of Tasha

LaTasha (Tasha) Tisdel

Executive Assistant

Tasha Tisdel, a native of El Paso Texas, has 20 years of work experience as an Administrative Assistant. She leads with empathy and advocates for individuals and people who are underserved and marginalized. As Chair of the Equity Team at the County level, she served as a fierce advocate for inclusivity and antiracism, creating momentum for implementing an equity lens tool that created space for bringing all stakeholder voices to the table. As a member of the Diversity Collective, she contributed towards building a racially reflective volunteer base to represent children served through the child advocate system. Her daughter is currently attending Western Washington University, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biochemistry. Tasha is a certified yoga instructor who enjoys hiking, meditating, road trips and mentoring survivors of homelessness and domestic violence. She stands ready to connect people to the resources they need on their equity journey.