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Governor Newsom Appoints Labor and Workforce Development Agency Leadership

SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom today announced the appointment of Natalie Palugyai as Secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). Natalie, a daughter of immigrants and an immigrant herself, is the first Latina to be appointed Secretary of Labor. Over the past two decades, Natalie has built a career focused on organizational effectiveness both within the federal government and higher education. Governor Newsom also announced Stewart Knox as LWDA Undersecretary.

Former LWDA Secretary Julie Su was confirmed by the U.S. Senate yesterday as Deputy Secretary of Labor at the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Natalie Palugyai has the right values and expertise to be California’s champion for workers,” said Governor Newsom. “Raised by immigrant parents, Natalie brings a unique perspective to helping millions of Californians recover from the pandemic and will fight for the essential workers who kept California running throughout the pandemic.”

“I am honored by this appointment and would like to first and foremost thank Governor Newsom for the opportunity to serve his administration and all Californians in this significant role,” said Natalie Palugyai. “Tremendous thanks is also owed to my family, in particular my mother and father, who came to this country for its vast opportunities but always instilled the importance of humility, empathy and the value of serving others.”

Natalie has established herself as a thought leader in the public sector, successfully leading large scale initiatives focused on organizational transformation, performance improvement and technology innovation that supports outcomes and customer experience. In her prior roles with the U.S. Department of Labor, the General Services Administration and FEMA, Natalie’s work drove government operational efficiencies, improved outcomes, and increased departmental accountability through data driven decision making.

“Congratulations to Natalie Palugyai on her nomination to be California’s next Labor Secretary, the first Latina to ever be nominated for the position,” said Senator María Elena Durazo. “As Chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, I look forward to working with her to solve issues of wage theft, expand health and safety provisions in the workplace, and create access to new good-paying jobs through High Road Partnerships.”

“Governor Newsom has made the right choice in Natalie to head California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency,” said Dolores Huerta. “Her diverse background and experience with the U.S. Department of Labor will make her a strong leader and advocate for California workers. I have fought for workers’ rights my entire life, especially for Latinas and Latinos on the fields, and know that Natalie will be a partner in fighting for the rights of all workers across the state.”

“Ms. Palugyai will serve as a role model for Latinas across the state and we look forward to supporting her as she helps Californians recover from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic which disproportionately impacted communities of color and women,” said Helen Iris Torres, CEO of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality.

“Natalie brings with her extraordinary knowledge and experience on the most important issues facing workers in today’s economy along with the ability to manage and organize large agencies,” said Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Officer of the California Labor Federation. “I know she will fight for all of California’s workers and treat them with respect.”

Natalie Palugyai, 40, Davidsonville, Maryland, has been appointed Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Palugyai has been Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives at Johns Hopkins University since 2018. She was Senior Advisor to the Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration at John Hopkins University from 2016 to 2017, Senior Advisor to the Administrator for the United States General Services Administration from 2015 to 2016 and Senior Management Advisor for the United States Department of Labor from 2010 to 2015. Palugyai was Branch Chief for the Office of Recovery Analysis, Reports and Technology Solutions for the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 2007 to 2010, Junior Professional Associate for Latin America and the Caribbean Region for the World Bank from 2005 to 2007 and Compliance Officer for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs for the United States Department of Labor from 2000 to 2003. She earned a Master of Public Policy degree from Harvard University. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $227,178. Palugyai is a Democrat.

Stewart Knox, 53, of West Sacramento, has been appointed Undersecretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, where he served as Undersecretary from 2019 to 2020. Knox has been Senior Vice President of Calbright Community College since 2020. He was Executive Director of the California Employment Training Panel from 2014 to 2019, Director of Health and Human Services for Nevada County in 2014 and Director of Economic and Workforce Development for San Mateo County from 2013 to 2014. Knox was Director of the Northern Rural Training and Employment Consortium from 2009 to 2013 and Executive Director of the North Central Counties Consortium from 2006 to 2008. He was Director of Workforce for the City of Glendale from 2004 to 2006 and for Yuba Community College from 1997 to 2004. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $191,690. Knox is registered without party preference.