Bios

Lourdes E. 'Alfie' Alvarado-Ramos, Director

Alfie Alvarado-Ramos serves as the Director of YOUR Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.  The Department is the statewide advocate for our veterans’ earned benefits and services.

Alfie was born in Puerto Rico and served 22 years on active duty retiring as the Command Sergeant Major of Madigan Army Medical Center and Troop Command, Joint Base Lewis McChord.  

As Director, she is a member of Governor Jay Inslee’s Executive Cabinet and chairs the Washington State Military Transition Council.   In this capacity her agency leads statewide efforts for the seamless transition of members of the military to Washington State’s communities.  She also serves as lead for the Governor’s Healthy and Safe Communities Goal Council which is charged with fostering the health of Washingtonians from a healthy start to a safe and supported future.

Alfie is the recipient of the Army Legion of Merit Medal and Military Order of Medical Merit and state and national awards that include the Governor’s Distinguished Management Leadership Award and the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary’s Leadership Award. 

Gary Condra, Deputy Director

Gary Condra is the Deputy Director of Your Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to this appointment he served as the WDVA Chief Financial Officer, responsible for accounting, budget, capital projects, compliance, emergency management and risk management.

He joined WDVA in June 1998 as the Associate Superintendent of the Washington Soldiers Home, Orting, Washington. Over time he added Retsil’s business office responsibilities which led to his becoming the Budget and Special Projects Manager for WDVA. He successfully led both the new facility construction at Retsil and the construction of the first State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake.

Prior to joining Veterans Affairs, Gary spent 20 years in the United States Army Medical Service Corps and retired in 1998 as a Lieutenant Colonel. In the Army, Gary worked with a number of innovative programs in military healthcare including a system of community based, contractor operated primary healthcare clinics known as PRIMUS; the CHAMPUS Reform Initiative; a local managed health care demonstration program known as Catchment Area Management; and the national TRICARE program which offers managed care, preferred provider network and indemnity insurance program options to military families. During his military career, he was the recipient of numerous awards and decorations to include the Legion of Merit, Order of Military Medical Merit and Meritorious Service Medals.

Gary holds a Masters degree in Health Care Administration from Baylor University and a Bachelors degree from the University of Tennessee. He is a life member of the Military Officers Association of America and a member of the American Legion. He is married to Rebecca and has two adult children Christopher and Sara.

 

Mary Forbes, Assistant Director

COL (Retired) Mary Forbes graduated from the US Military Academy in 1983, the US Army War College in 2006, and served on active duty with the US Army and the Washington Army National Guard for over 26 years.  As the Assistant Director for Veterans Services at the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, Mary Forbes champions federal and state initiatives to end veteran homelessness.  Her efforts have resulted in communities greatly expanding their capacity to serve homeless veterans and significantly reduced the number of homeless veterans in the state over the last four years. As a result of multiple years of community engagement, she was recognized by the White House as a “Women Veteran Leader Champion of Change” in February 2014 and received the Governor’s Award for Leadership in Management in June 2014.   Mary’s guiding principles of building partnerships, fostering productive relationships and providing world class customer service at the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs have proven to be successful for veterans and their families in Washington State.

 

Heidi Audette, Communications and Legislative Director

Born and raised in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, Heidi Audette moved with her family to Olympia, Washington after graduating from high school.

She completed her Bachelor of Science with an emphasis in Public Policy at Montana Tech of the University of Montana.  After graduation, she moved back to Olympia and was hired by the House of Representatives in the Office of the Speaker.  She spent several years in the Speaker’s Office and was later hired as a House Research Analyst focusing on K-12 Education. 

In 2000, Heidi was hired as the Legislative Liaison for the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.  Several months later, she also assumed the responsibilities of the Communications Director.  Heidi has been fortunate to work on legislation creating the Armed Forces License Plates and the Veteran Owned Business Registry and on events such as the dedication ceremony for the Washington’s first State Veterans Cemetery and the re-dedication of the WWII Memorial.

Heidi is married with two children and lives in the Olympia area.

Mike Kashmar, Chief Financial Officer

Mike Kashmar is a 26 year state employee with budgeting and accounting experience at various agencies. He spent the early years of his public service career as an accountant and an analyst at the Washington State Dept. Of Transportation followed by two years as the Budget Manager at the Department of General Administration.  Mike also served 6 years with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, three as the Budget Manager and three as the Chief Financial Officer during the time of liquor privatization followed by the legalization of cannabis.  He is a proud graduate of Saint Martin’s University, has lived in Olympia for 33 years, and is thrilled to be part of the DVA team and the opportunity to “Serve Those Who Served”. 

 

Sarah Conly, Human Resources Director

Sarah joined your WDVA HR Team in 2015 and has almost 20 years of diverse human resources experience at various agencies throughout State government.  As the HR/Payroll Director, Sarah is responsible for creating innovative ways to engage all employees and establishing the culture, systems and training that will develop leaders and empower employees to solve problems.  In addition, she provides senior level consulting services to our employees. 

Prior to joining WDVA, she work at the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Department of Corrections (DOC) and Department of Ecology.  Sarah worked in various positions gaining professional HR experience at all levels of the organization. 

In 2007, Sarah completed the Certified Public Managers Program at South Puget Sound Community College, a comprehensive leadership and management program, were she gained professional knowledge in strategic planning, leadership development and employee development.  Sarah has extensive training in the Allenbaugh Coaching System model, Performance Coaching.  During Sarah’s employment at DOC she was trained to conduct workplace investigations through the Reid Techniques of Interviewing and Interrogation course.  Sarah is also a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Sarah and her husband Brad have one adult daughter Gabi and son in-law Brandon, with three amazing grandchildren, Brandon Jr., Madi and Ellie.

 

Rudy Lopez, Washington Veterans Cemetery Director

Rudy Lopez is a 30-year veteran of the United States Air Force, holding various positions in the medical field including the Air Force Pharmacy Career Field Manager. His assignments include numerous bases stateside as well as overseas in Turkey and Germany. He deployed and served as the 332d Expeditionary Medical Group Superintendent, Joint Base Balad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007, and served as the interim 15 Airlift Wing Command Chief, Hickam AFB Hawaii in 2009.

As the Veterans Cemetery Director, Lopez is responsible for planning, coordinating, and directing the administration and operation of the State Veterans cemetery."Throughout my career I've had the privilege of serving our military members, veterans and their families” said Lopez. “I'm honored and humbled to be given this opportunity to continue to serve that same community of great Americans throughout the inland northwest."

Lopez and his wife both originate from El Paso, Texas, and have one son. The family made Spokane, Washington their new home.

Lael Hepworth, Walla Walla Veterans Home Superintendent

The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs is proud to announce the appointment of Lael Hepworth as the first Superintendent of the Walla Walla State Veterans Home, scheduled to open in the winter of 2017.  Hepworth previously served as the Superintendent of the Washington Soldiers Home, Orting in 2013 before accepting a position with the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Lael’s patient demeanor and genuine compassion for each and every veteran he encounters are just two of the many traits that make him the right licensed nursing home administrator for this position,” said Gary Condra, WDVA Deputy Director. 

Hepworth served nearly ten years in the Army National Guard as a field artillery cannoneer and as motor pool sergeant in a medical unit.

Hepworth, his wife Jenny and their three children will be making their home in Walla Walla and look forward to becoming a part of the community.

Ron Bergstrom,  Superintendent Washington Veterans Home

Ron Bergstrom serves as the Superintendent of the Washington Veterans Home in Port Orchard, WA.  He brings to the role diverse and extensive professional leadership experience across the continuum of care, support, and services.  This includes leadership, management, planning and development, and construction responsibilities in multiple settings.  He has served as the Administrator of Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities, Executive Director of Senior Living Communities, and Vice President and Consultant for Senior Living with a consulting firm, as well as Regional Operations Administrator for Continuing Care for a Health Care System.

Ron shares that his career of service has been shaped by his interest in people, respect and concern for others and their well-being, and his creativity and personal interest in and drive to turn possibilities into realities. Pivotal as well were his associations and experiences as an Operating Room Technician in the U.S. Force.  This served to reinforce his commitment to know and do what is right regardless of other demands or influences.  While he has a heart for all in need, he is particularly drawn to serving Veterans and older adults.

He holds a Master’s Degree in Business with a concentration in Health Services Administration from Cornell University, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a concentration in Human Resources Administration from San Jose State University, and a Certificate in Guardianship from the University of Washington. 

While a native Washingtonian, Ron’s career has involved living in several parts of the Country.  He and his wife and two daughters are happy to be living again in Washington State.  He shares that he is honored and pleased as Superintendent of the Washington Veterans Home to have the opportunity Serve Those Who Served.  

 

Robert Pence, Superintendent at Washington Soldiers Home  

Robert has worked in healthcare for over 25 years. He started working in a long term care facility as a NAC which led him to further his education.  His experience led to his interest in becoming a nursing home administrator so that he could help staff better care for each and every resident.

Robert graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a degree in Psychology and then he became a social worker in a long term care facility.  He also became a business office manager and then an admission and marketing director in long term care facilities.  Robert became a nursing home administrator in 2010.  His entire career has been in long term care facilities caring for all different types of residents.

Robert has been married for over 21 years and has seven almost grown children.  He and his family have lived in the Tacoma area for nearly that entire time.  Robert is very excited to have the honor to help serve our veterans and become part of the family at the Soldiers Home.

 

Bonita Powers, Administrator at the Spokane Veterans Home

Bonita’s professional career as a nursing home administrator extends over 33 years.  Her experience ranges from work in short term subacute to long term rehabilitative care.  She has served as an administrator in communities with geriatric, geropsych and developmentally disabled populations including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and retirement communities.  In addition to her healthcare experience, Bonita comes to us with many years of state service and organized labor management.  She has seen many changes in the long term care industry and maintains a proactive management style in her facilities.