Chris Brandt has been the CEO of AtWork! since August of 2006. She led its transformation from a reliance on service models that segregate and isolate people with disabilities, to a nationally recognized leader in community integrated employment and inclusion. With her leadership, and the strong team she nurtures, AtWork! has expanded its services geographically and programmatically; increasing the number of people with disabilities we serve annually from 200 to nearly 500. Ms. Brandt is known as a champion for equity and inclusion of all people with disabilities in our workforce and society. Her forty-eight (48) year career has been dedicated to working on behalf of people with disabilities and their families.
Ms. Brandt began her career as a Special Education Teacher working at Beaufort Elementary School in Port Alberni, BC. Then, moving on to serving adults, Ms. Brandt came back to her hometown of Port Angeles and began working at Diversified Industries as Kitchen Skills Coordinator in their Group Home. She later launched New Broom Janitorial, one of the first group-supported employment programs in Washington State that employed 40 people and became the largest janitorial company on the Olympic Peninsula. As their Executive Director, she then led a pilot project for individual employment that achieved the best cost-benefit (amount of wages earned by the person supported compared to the cost of support) amongst all the programs in the pilot.
Innovation and opportunity were shared with others who replicated similar programs until it became a movement. Washington State became the national leader in outcomes for people with the most significant disabilities. With her colleagues, Ms. Brandt was instrumental in securing passage of Washington State’s Employment First legislation. As a subject matter expert, she has delivered training and technical assistance in multiple states, including significant work in Oregon implementing the settlement of Lane vs. Brown that resulted in the closure of their sheltered workshops and the end of subminimum wages.
Most recently, Ms. Brandt achieved an unexpected pinnacle in her career. On August 16, 2021, after being appointed by President Biden, she was sworn in as a Citizen Commissioner to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. Proudly, she and her fellow commissioners have moved forward with ending subminimum wages and modernizing the federal procurement program to create more opportunity through community-integrated employment and upward mobility.