DennisKamimura fmt

november 2013

MOVE catches up with the recipient of AAMVA's 2013 Chair's Award of Excellence


A licensing administrator at the DMV in Honolulu since 1978, Dennis Kamimura soon will be retiring and devoting his time to golf, travel and other pursuits. Read on to learn more about this member, who has left a lasting impression on the AAMVA community.

You are retiring soon as a licensing administrator after 36 years at the DMV. How does it feel?

Mixed. There’s happiness to begin a new chapter in my life and sorrow that I will no longer be interacting with my staff and trying to resolve customer issues.

What will you miss most about the DMV?

How every day is always different—the new issues and challenges we face to make our operations more efficient for the staff and the public.

What is a typical day like for you?

I arrive at 5:30 or 5:45 a.m. and get to work answering a lot of emails, especially from the mainland because we have a significant time difference—six hours from the East Coast. Meetings start at 8 a.m. and go all the way until 5 p.m. The majority of my time is spent in meetings or consulting with staff when they have issues.

What is one of your fondest memories of the DMV?

In 1977, I was working for an office that audits departments, and one of the problems at the time was the long lines for year-end motor vehicle registration. I went to my first AAMVA meeting—in San Francisco—and learned about other people’s problems with year-end registration. Some other states had initiated staggered motor vehicle registration.

I brought the idea back to Hawaii and recommended it to the administrator. He soon retired and I applied for the job. I was praised for implementing the program. I’m not the type to implement something and pull it out of the sky. With AAMVA, you learn from the success and failure of other jurisdictions. My motto has always been, “learn from someone else.”

How is the Hawaii DMV different, if at all, from DMVs on the mainland?

Hawaii is the only state where there is no state DMV. The state statutes and individual county rules govern the motor vehicle portion of the DMV operations, and state statutes and state DOT rules govern the driver’s license portion of the DMV operations. Because the City and County of Honolulu have the largest population of registered vehicles and drivers and the statewide motor vehicle and driver’s license/state ID computer files are housed in the City and County of Honolulu, Honolulu has taken the lead in statutory changes and recommended changes in each county’s ordinances and rules. It has also assisted in drafting statewide rules relating to the issuance of driver’s licenses and state IDs.

Can you think of any issues that Hawaii DMVs face that mainlanders might find interesting or unusual?

Hawaii is the same as other U.S. jurisdictions—we are just smaller and surrounded by water. Because the primary transportation between each county and entering and departing the state is by air, it was important for the state to be in compliance with the REAL ID Act so that our citizens would be able to travel without everyone being required to obtain a U.S. passport. As you are aware, Hawaii became the 20th state to receive REAL ID certification from DHS [Department of Homeland Security].

How is it that your family settled in Hawaii?

My and my wife’s grandparents emigrated from Japan to Hawaii to work on the sugar plantations. Both our parents were born in Hawaii. I was first in my family to leave Hawaii for college in the mainland—I attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. Since I was enrolled in ROTC, upon graduation and commissioning, I went straight into the Army. I was stationed in Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, [Washington,] D.C., Vietnam and Hawaii. When stationed in Hawaii, I married my wife and decided to leave the Army to remain home in Hawaii. I joined the Hawaii Army National Guard and got a job with Merrill Lynch. I went for training and work in New York for about six months, but then I returned to Hawaii. I left Merrill Lynch and started my government career. Hawaii is where I was born and will probably die.

You recently won AAMVA’s Chair’s Award of Excellence. Tell me a bit about that.

I was honored to receive the award. My contributions to AAMVA are extremely minor compared to what the state of Hawaii and I received from participating in the AAMVA programs and the relationships developed with the jurisdictions and AAMVA staff. Without AAMVA and the cooperative attitude of the participating jurisdictions and vendors, I think Hawaii would not be in the position that it is today.

Lucky you: You already live in a retirement destination. What do you plan to do with your free time?

If permitted, I intend to continue coming to work for a portion of the day to clear my desk of pending issues. Then I’d like to do some traveling with my wife, who raised our children and whom I have neglected due to my military and civilian obligations. Also, while I am not great at the game, I also will go out on the range and practice golf.

What is your dream car?

When I was younger, it was a Corvette. But now, I love the reliability and riding comfort of the Toyota. I drive a Corolla and my wife drives a Camry Hybrid.