Israel Mendoza is a native of Washington, born in Yakima, and the third oldest of eleven children in a farm worker family. He worked for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm workers Union in Seattle, Washington and Dallas, Texas. He started with the Employment Security Department in April 1972 as a participant in the Emergency Employment Act program as a seasonal assistant interviewer. From that position he literally worked his way up the agency career ladder to Acting Commissioner in October of 1990. During that time, he has been a community liaison, worked on welfare reform, employment and training programs, business resource programs, policy development, communications, legislative activities, and constituent relationships for the Employment Security Department. He has been the Director of the Adult Basic Education Office at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges since February 1996. He is past chair of the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education, a position he has held twice.
Israel is a graduate of the Program for Senior Executives in state and local government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He attended Washington State University and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from The Evergreen State College where he emphasized studies in economics and minority business development.