Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced the appointment of Aaron Wheeler to serve as director of the Washington State Broadband Office (WSBO) within the state’s Department of Commerce.

Wheeler joins the state government after spending 18 years serving in various information technology roles with the Suquamish Tribe’s government.

“Rural internet access is a priority in Washington, and Aaron’s experience will help everyone get connected no matter where they are,” Gov. Inslee said. “I know he’s eager to get to work and I’m looking forward to our continued progress on this important effort.”

Wheeler’s first day on the job will be March 1. He will be tasked with leading the WSBO as it works with other state agencies and private partners to develop and implement a five-year action plan and digital equity plan to create universal, reliable high-speed internet across Washington.

“Aaron deeply understands what it means to strengthen communities and provide the tools they need to succeed,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong. “His background partnering with Tribes, knowledge of information technology, and experience bringing internet access to underserved communities will be an asset to the state as we work to ensure everyone has access to high-speed internet.”

During his time with the Suquamish Tribe’s government, Wheeler led a team deploying 135 free public wireless access locations and a cooperative project with the Kitsap Public Utilities District. Wheeler also worked with state legislative leaders to pass public retail broadband legislation, which allowed an array of local governments to offer retail and wholesale broadband services to residents in Tribal and rural areas.

The governor’s office also touted Wheeler’s success in co-authoring a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grant application for broadband equity and digital education on behalf of the Suquamish Tribe. The governor’s office noted that the grant provided the Tribe with funding to rebuild the network infrastructures of the Suquamish Chief Kitsap Academy and Early Learning Center Head Start buildings, which provided the facilities with new and accelerated internet access, digital learning equipment, and a curriculum designed to encourage people from Tribal and underserved groups to enter the technology field.

Wheeler has a degree in information technology and administrative management from Central Washington University and an executive masters of business administration from Washington State University.

“I’m looking forward to this critical work and all the opportunities that come with it, including partnering with communities across the state,” Wheeler said. “I’m also excited to lead the WSBO team of passionate individuals dedicated to improving internet access.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs