Porter tall

February 2013

Move Magazine steals a few minutes with Fred Porter, a regional director for member support at AAMVA, and administrator of the Arkansas Office of Motor Vehicles. He will retire at the end of February.

You’ve been a part of the motor vehicle world for over 30 years. What does it feel like to retire?

It’s something you think about your whole life, but it’s never there. Now, it’s kind of surreal. It really is here. It makes you think, my goodness. Where did the time go?

What are your plans?

To spend more time with my wife, Betty, and do more things that I want to do instead of need to do. I don’t have anything exotic planned, maybe decompress for a few weeks. Betty has a list of honey-dos, so we’ll work through that. I’ll play some golf. We’ll probably do some leisure travel, but that’s not a priority early on. I’ve seen the inside of enough hotel rooms to last me for a while.

What will you miss about working for AAMVA and the field of motor vehicles in general?

That an easy one. It’s the people. AAMVA is such a great group of people—members, staff, industry partners. They’ve been a great group to work with.

Prior to working for AAMVA as a director of business development in 2004, you served as administrator of the Arkansas Office of Motor Vehicles for 24 years. What kept you in this industry so many years?

When I started in state government in 1972, fresh out of college, as a budget analyst, that’s a high-pressure, fast-moving job, but I enjoyed it. I moved to motor vehicles in 1980 and the big thing I remember was the first regional conference Betty and I went to—a difference of daylight and dark between the Budget Office and Office of Motor Vehicles. It was such a collegial group of people interested in what you do and who you are, and sharing information. It was really refreshing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. What I liked about the job was opportunities for one-on-one working with the public. People think a problem can’t be solved, but you can do it. I enjoyed working with the legislative and executive branches.

What is one enduring memory you have of working at the Arkansas Office of Motor Vehicles?

Don’t come between a guy and his pick-up truck. If there was something wrong with the ownership documents, all he wanted was the problem solved. The big thing was, most that came to my office were very emotional by the time they got to me because they had already heard “no” several times. I remember sitting down with them and letting them talk it out, and then trying to find a way to help them. Most walked out happy, even if they didn’t get exactly what they came in wanting. That was fun.

What is most striking to you about how the industry has changed?

That’d be two things: technology advancement and improvement of customer service. One example is, when I took over the DMV in Arkansas in 1980, it was all manual. We did certificates of title on a Xerox copy flow machine. In 1997, we passed legislation to do online tag renewals so people could renew their licenses online. By January of 1998, people could renew their car tags at Wal-Mart. That’s an unbelievable technology and customer service leap. People no longer had to stand in line. They could renew it without going anywhere. Arkansas wasn’t unique. Going from seeing the DMV as a joke on Letterman and Leno, to where they are models of customer service in the public sector, it felt good to be a part of that.

Did you aspire to work for the state when you were in college?

No. It was the furthest thing from my mind. I worked in the college purchasing office while getting my degree. When I graduated I went to work for a grocery chain in their management program. I realized I didn’t want to do that. I went to an employment agency and the employment counselor said her husband was the administrator of the Arkansas Office of State Purchasing—a fluke. She said they were looking for a buyer, and since I had worked three years in the college purchasing office, she would have her husband call me. I talked to him and he said there was an opening in the Office of Budget that was higher-paying. I got the job, and as it worked out, six years later in 1978, I was the youngest state budget director in the United States at the age of 28.

What are your hobbies?

I love golf. I build golf clubs for friends and colleagues in AAMVA. That’s one of the things I want to get back to doing. I enjoy working with my hands. I enjoy seeing the tangible results of my efforts and seeing my friends enjoy using those clubs.

What kind of car do you drive?

A Toyota 4Runner. I’ve had it five years.

What’s your favorite movie featuring a motor vehicle?

I’d say On Any Sunday, a documentary from the early 1970s about motorcycle racing. When I was in my teens and 20s, I raced motorcycles. But since I was the state budget director by the late 70’s, they weren’t crazy about me risking my neck racing motorcycles on the weekends. I still have the engine to my last motocross bike. My dream would be to restore the motorcycle.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

I would say I’ve had a blessed life. Not many people have one career they really enjoy; I have had two. Even though I’m retiring, I’ll continue to be a member of the AAMVA community. As a past Region II president, I’ll plan to go to the Region II conference each year, and who knows? I may pop up at some other AAMVA events on occasion.

As of press time, Fred underwent successful surgery to remove a recently discovered brain tumor. Pending pathology results, he will undergo additional treatment in Houston. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..