Governor Newsom Appoints New DMV Director from Silicon Valley

Governor Newsom has selected a technology consultant from Silicon Valley, Steve Gordon, to modernize the DMV’s decades old computer system which is in part responsible for the long wait times and dysfunction which has beset the agency. Anticipating long wait lines as Californians obtain Real ID’s- federally mandated identification cards-the Governor aims to restore trust in DMV operations after the agency mishandled the rollout of an automatic voter registration system.

Governor Newsom is thinking outside the box in not appointing a career bureaucrat to head to DMV, but a Silicon Valley outsider. It should be interesting to watch. Often times when people with business backgrounds enter government service, they run into trouble because they are not used to dealing with the general inherent governmental bureaucracies and inefficiencies. The DMV has long been mired in bureaucratic missteps and poor access.

Gordon applied for the job on the DMV website and the Governor credited his initiative and background at Cisco systems, where he was Vice President of technical services from 1993-2011. Gordon’s experience addressing things that were going wrong should help improve customer service at the DMV where wait times in excess of two hours is a regular occurrence. DMV Director Jean Shiomoto retired in December.Newsom took office in January and formed a “strike team” to fix the DMV, calling the department “chronically mismanaged.”

The strike team’s recommendations, will guide what Newsom called a “systemic and sequential” modernization of the DMV, emphasizing a gradual stabilization of its faulty technology and a change of culture and business practices rather than a major overhaul.

The Legislature already set aside an additional $242 million in this year’s state budget for the DMV, primarily for nearly 1,900 temporary positions and 179 new permanent employees.

As many as 28 million more Californians could seek Real IDs before the October 2020 deadline. Every field office in the state will close Wednesday for a halfday of training on how to reduce the time it takes for each of those transactions.
A $10 million media campaign will roll out in the coming months to inform customers about the documents they need to obtain a Real ID and to encourage people to start applying now, in hopes of avoiding a lastminute crush next fall.
The state is also adding 200 self-service kiosks to locations including grocery stores and libraries so people can perform basic functions, such as renewing their car registrations, without having to come into a DMV office.

Technology companies IBM and CGI have been contracted to upgrade and stabilize the DMV’s systems, which suffer from frequent outages.

The information in this post was obtained from these sources:

Tech dinosaur California DMV gets dose of Silicon Valley in hopes of fixing it, SF Chronicle, July 24, 2019, Alexi Koseff
https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Tech-dinosaur-California-DMV-gets-dose-of-Silicon-14117770.php

Newsom Names New Head of DMV, Stresses Incremental Change to Agency
https://www.kqed.org/news/11762931/newsom-names-new-head-of-dmv-stresses-incremental-change-to-agency