DOL Director Teresa Berntsen receives Building Bridges Across the Nation Award

June 4, 2019

Sanjay Panda, right, consul general of India (San Francisco), presents an award to DOL Director Teresa Berntsen on May 30 in Seattle.

Since becoming director of the Department of Licensing in 2018, Teresa Berntsen has made it a priority to build productive relationships with cross-cultural and underserved communities. She moved quickly to create the agency’s first Office of Equity and Inclusion, whose goal is to ensure everyone has a voice in how they access information and services. She implemented mandatory training for all DOL employees to help develop cultural competencies in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And she’s the driving force behind the agency’s outreach efforts, including an ongoing campaign to prepare all Washington residents — regardless of citizenship status — for air travel ID law changes coming in 2020.

Most importantly, she has made a difference. That was the key takeaway last week in Seattle, where she was honored with the Building Bridges Across the Nation Award by the Washington State India Trade Relations Action Committee (WASITRAC).

Speaking to a packed room of 60 community leaders, many representing the South Asian community in Washington state and beyond, DOL Deputy Chief Information Officer Vel Rajagopal said Berntsen’s core value is to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

“Her biggest strength as a leader is her willingness to be vulnerable,” Rajagopal said. “She considers vulnerability not a weakness, but a strength that brings out the authentic self. I have been personally inspired by her humility and compassion toward the communities we serve.”

Also honored at the event were Rita Meher of Tasveer.org, Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez, and Justice Ketu Shah of the King County District Court.


DOL commemorates renewal of driver licensing agreement with Taiwan

May 23, 2019

DOL Director Teresa Berntsen, right, welcomed Alex Fan, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle, for a reciprocity agreement renewal signing Thursday.

The Department of Licensing on Thursday commemorated the renewal of an agreement that makes it easier for drivers from Taiwan or Washington state to transfer a license from one place to the other.

The reciprocity agreement allows Taiwan nationals living in Washington, such as college students, to skip the driving and written licensing exams if they are already licensed to drive in Taiwan. Washington residents living in Taiwan have the same option.

In the five years since the initial deal was reached, more than 2,300 Taiwanese drivers have obtained Washington driver licenses through the reciprocity process.

Renewal of the pact was formalized in a signing ceremony in the office of DOL Director Teresa Berntsen, who was joined by Policy and Legislative Director Beau Perschbacher. Representing Taiwan were Alex Fan, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle, and consulate Tony, Nien-Tzu, Hu.

“The signing of this agreement highlights the strong relationship between the state of Washington and Taiwan,” Berntsen said. “It also demonstrates our joint commitment to streamline the licensing process.”

Drivers from Taiwan seeking a Washington license will need to visit the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle to have their current license properly translated and verified prior to visiting a DOL licensing service office.

DOL has reciprocity agreements with four other jurisdictions: British Columbia, Germany, South Korea, and Japan.


DOL Director Teresa Berntsen honors organ donors, families for “ultimate act of kindness”

April 4, 2019
Teresa Berntsen speaks at award ceremony honoring organ donors

Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen speaks Thursday at the Gift of Life Award ceremony honoring organ donors and their loved ones.

Calling organ donation “the ultimate act of kindness,” Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen expressed humility, admiration, and gratitude for organ donors during an emotional ceremony Thursday at the Capitol building in Olympia. The event honored Washington state residents who gave organs in 2018 and their families.

The Gift of Life Award is presented annually by the governor’s office in partnership with LifeCenter Northwest, a federally designated nonprofit organ procurement organization that serves Washington, Alaska, Montana, and north Idaho.

Prior to introducing Gov. Jay Inslee, Berntsen said organ donation “exemplifies the graciousness of our humanity.”

The Department of Licensing has long played a key role in connecting people in need of organ transplants with donors. More than 99 percent of organ donor registrations in Washington are facilitated by DOL.

“Whether it is in person, online, or by mail, by saying ‘yes’ to donation through our agency, we are able to support legal authorization for people to donate all organs, eyes, and tissues for life-saving or -enhancing transplants,” Berntsen said.

As of March 1, 1,683 people in Washington were on the organ transplant waiting list, according to figures from the United Network for Organ Sharing. It is estimated 20 people die each day waiting for an organ donation.

Learn how to become an organ donor.


Ride safely to the prom in a licensed limo

April 11, 2013
Limo poster

Don’t be taken for a ride by an unlicensed limo company.

Prom season is upon us, and many high school students will be trying to make their special night even more fun by hiring a limo.  The Department of Licensing reminds parents and students to check to see if the limo they hire is licensed by the state. 

 
If you’re planning to make your event extra special by using one of Washington’s quality limo services, we suggest you do your homework,” Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen said. “Don’t be taken for a ride by an unlicensed limousine company.  Always check references and make sure the company is licensed before you hire them.”
 
Limousine operators in Washington are required to be licensed, carry sufficient liability insurance, and undergo annual safety inspections by the Washington State Patrol or City of Seattle. Chauffeurs must be at least 21 years of age, hold a valid driver license, complete a chauffeur training course and pass a State Patrol background check.
 
Berntsen said a website, Craigslist ad, or a simple advertisement in the phone book or newspaper does not guarantee the operator is licensed. Unlicensed limousine operators may not meet state insurance or safety requirements and it can be difficult to hold them accountable if problems arise.
 
To find out if the limousine service you plan to use is licensed by the state, visit the Department of Licensing website at www.dol.wa.gov/business/limousine/. Scroll down to the area for consumers, click on “Look up a business or professional license” and then “Search business license.”  If you do not see the business listed as a limousine company, please call 360-705-6744. They can help you verify that the limousine company is properly licensed.
 
DOL Video:  Renting a Limo / Ride in Style, Ride Safely