Gov. Jay Inslee appointed him to lead Washington’s largest state agency nearly three years ago. He’ll stay in the job until a successor is named.

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Kevin Quigley, head of Washington’s largest state agency, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), announced his resignation on Tuesday.

In a statement, Quigley said he will leave the department, which is tasked with caring for the state’s most vulnerable residents and serves millions, once a successor is named. He started on Jan. 16, 2013, after Gov. Jay Inslee appointed him to the position.

“We have families here in Washington who struggle and need our help to keep their children safe, comfortable and healthy,” Quigley said in the statement. “My proudest time will always be the time I spent with our DSHS team …”

The statement noted several departmental successes during his tenure, including “historic lows” for the number of child-abuse-related fatalities and for the agency’s resolving cases within 90 days.

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Before assuming the post, Quigley served as a state senator and worked as a lawyer, Internet company executive and president of an Everett shipyard. He had no experience in social work or running a large government agency before he took the job.

The agency, which employs more than 17,500 people, serves some of the state’s poorest and most troubled residents. Among other duties, it issues food stamps and welfare payments, investigates child-abuse cases and runs mental hospitals, including the state’s largest psychiatric hospital, Western State Hospital, in Pierce County. It operates on a $14 billion, two-year budget.

But the department over the years has faced accusations of failing to halt abuse, including scores of lawsuits in which children have been victims of rape, torture and starvation.

Recently, reports came to light that patients at Western State have assaulted hundreds of employees, resulting in millions of dollars in medical costs and thousands of missed days of work. Federal regulators repeatedly threatened to cut millions in funding to the hospital last year after inspections found systemwide failures.

After the 1995 resignation of then-DSHS Secretary Jean Soliz, Quigley said DSHS secretaries seemed to come and go though the agency’s problems persist. Quigley’s predecessor, former DSHS Secretary Robin Arnold-Williams, assumed the role after Susan Dreyfus resigned in early 2012 after serving since May 2009.

Quigley, an avid mountain climber, said he plans to “climb Denali’s West Rib and the face of Half Dome” in California after he leaves the agency, his statement said. He and his wife, Suzanne, live in Lake Stevens and have four children.

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had …,” Quigley said in the statement. “I believe DSHS is in great shape to move forward without me.”