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Governor's Search for Permanent DMV Director Remains Active, State Says

Change is underway at the California Department of Motor Vehicles, spearheaded by a Strike Team announced in January and informed by an audit underway since October. The state also continues to push on recruiting a new permanent DMV director.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom’s search for long-term leadership at the DMV remains active, with the governor’s office and the state both pointing out late Monday that California’s 40th governor continues his quest to reinvent a sprawling and highly impactful agency.

Newsom has sought new leadership at the DMV since the retirement of Director Jean Shiomoto in December. Shiomoto’s exit followed a litany of problems including issues with the state’s Motor Voter program, launched in 2018 to automatically register eligible visitors to vote unless they opted out. In September, the DMV announced the program had improperly registered thousands of Californians. The DMV has also reportedly faced increased challenges around issuing millions of federally mandated Real ID cards ahead of the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline.

The DMV has had two temporary leaders since Shiomoto’s departure. She was first replaced by Bill Davidson, who served as acting director starting Dec. 31; then, in late February, by Kathleen Webb, whose state tenure has included time at the California Government Operations Agency (GovOps) and CalPERS. But Newsom’s office continues to push on reinventing the DMV — appointing GovOps Secretary Marybel Batjer in January to lead a Strike Team overseeing an agency overhaul — and on permanently filling the top job.

In a post on LinkedIn that went live near close-of-business Monday, the state of California said Newsom’s office is recruiting for a new DMV director. That person, the state said on its LinkedIn page, will helm one of California’s “most widely accessed departments into a new era of on-demand, online customer service, identity authentication, and autonomous vehicles, among many other emerging opportunities.”

Newsom’s office also mentioned the recruitment in a tweet on Monday afternoon.

“California is searching for a visionary, pragmatic leader who will create a new DMV to serve all Californians today and tomorrow. If you’re up for the challenge of reinventing an iconic government agency, apply within,” the governor’s office said via Twitter, paraphrasing the position’s job description online, which described the search as a “priority recruitment.”

Brian Ferguson, Newsom’s deputy director of media and public affairs, referred a reporter to GovOps, which he noted via email “is leading the DMV Strike Team.” Lynda Gledhill, GovOps deputy secretary for communications, said via email that Newsom’s announcement of the Strike Team “included help with finding executive leadership,” noting that while GovOps “helped promote the recruitment,” the application process is through the governor’s office.

Newsom will ultimately appoint DMV’s new leader, to helm an agency that operates within the California State Transportation Agency and staffs 172 field offices with 8,900 employees. The DMV, the governor’s office said in the recruitment notice, also takes in more than $8 billion in yearly revenue. That appointment likely won’t come before results of a performance audit of the agency, underway since October at the Department of Finance (DoF). H.D. Palmer, DoF deputy director for external affairs, told Techwire earlier this year that the audit should be available, with responses from DMV and potentially other departments, by the end of March. Gledhill said via email that GovOps had not been involved in the audit.

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.