Nelson served as president of Opus Bank's Washington region until stepping down in April 2012. She joined Opus a year earlier when it bought up struggling Everett-based Cascade Bank where Nelson had been chief executive for a decade.
"Carol's record speaks for itself," Inslee said in a statement. "She has demonstrated dynamic leadership that is evident in the bottom lines of the banks she's worked for and has been widely recognized for creating a positive corporate culture with high morale."
Nelson, who spent more than 25 years in the banking industry, said Tuesday that after leaving Opus she took time off, volunteered on community boards and did a little consulting.
She said she did not know Inslee personally when he contacted her about the job.
"When you get the call from the governor who says that we can you use your help," she began, "it's an opportunity that you can't pass up."
Nelson is no stranger to public service, most recently serving as the chairwoman of the Task Force on Homeowner Security established by former Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2007. It made recommendations to help homeowners deal with foreclosures and avoid becoming victims of mortgage-related scams.
Nelson is replacing Brad Flaherty as head of the state's chief tax collecting agency. She will oversee 1,112 employees working in 12 regional offices plus the headquarters in Olympia.
Nelson, 56, who is married and the mother of two adult sons, will begin work Monday and earn an annual salary of $136,776.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; email@example.com.