Change in command coming at Vets' Home

"Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, who guided the Washington Veterans Home in Retsil through a turbulent period in the late 1990s, will resign as its superintendent this summer to devote full attention to a new state job.She's been named assistant director for agency operations at the state Department of Veterans Affairs. She said Wednesday she'll start her new duties full-time in early-July. Until then, she'll also remain the superintendent in Retsil while her successor is selected.In her new position, Alvarado-Ramos will oversee the Restil facility and the state's other Veterans Home in Orting. Among other things, she'll work at coordinating services to the homes' residents--320 live at Retsil and 183 at Orting--and possibly creating more programs for veterans in eastern Washington.Alvarado-Ramos became Retsil's superintendent after an investigation led to the firing in 1997 of former superintendent Harry Wedington, who was accused of sexually harassing at least six female employees of the home. Governor Gary Locke's dismissal of Wedington triggered the resignation of A.J. Bergeron as director of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Begeron was accused by employees at the Retsil facility of not taking their charges against Wedington seriously.Alvarado-Ramos, who was superintendent at the home in Orting before switching to Retsil, was praised by administrators and residents alike for her handling of the Wedington fallout and subsequent controversies at the home. The latter included:* The firing in March 1998 of a janitor who sexually harassed a teenage volunteer worker at the home.* A report by the home's Residents Council in April 1998 that criticized the handling of medical services and other medical services before Alvarado-Ramos was in charge. Later, the tone of the report was softened by its writer, and most of the complaints had been resolved by the time the report was released.* Tentative plans to close the home. State officials said the facility was too old to remodel and maintain. But after an outcry by residents and an end to discussions of building a new home in Pierce County, the officials said the Retsil facility would remain open and possibly become the site of a new state-of-the-art nursing center. Alvarado-Ramos said she has enjoyed her tenure at Retsil.We have a tremendous staff that has accomplished great things on a daily basis, she said.It was decided she would remain superintendent until her replacement is hired, in order to provide continuity in the home's management, she said. Besides Alvarado-Ramos, the state also is replacing the superintendent at the Orting home, where Jerry Town is the acting head. Interviews of finalists could begin later this month. Applicants for that post could also be considered for the Retsil job, officials said.John King, director of Veterans Affairs, said Alvarado-Ramos is the perfect choice for her new job. She has supervised both homes and she is learned, experienced and passionate in veterans' issues, King noted.State Sen. Bob Oke, a member of a legislative committee that oversees veterans' issues, said Alvarado-Ramos improved Retsil and will make sure both homes run well.Before joining Veterans Affairs, Alvarado-Ramos worked in medical services in the Army. She left as a command sergeant major, the second-highest rank available to enlisted personnel."

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