Stacey Stanton and Jennifer Cohan


stacey stanton passes the torch to AAMVA'S NEW CHAIR OF THE BOARD JENNIFER COHAN

Passing the Torch. Handing Off the Baton. Changing of the Guard. Whatever you want to call it, it happened at the 2013 AAMVA Annual International Conference, as Stacey Stanton, Director of the Motor Vehicle Division of the Arizona Department of Transportation, successfully wrapped up her term as Chair of the AAMVA Board and Jennifer Cohan, Director of the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles, stepped into the leadership position. We sat down with the two Chairs – past and present – to get an inside look at what it takes to fill that role:

Stacey Stanton, AAMVA Chair 2012-2013: I'd like to congratulate you on assuming the Chairmanship of the AAMVA Board of Directors. It is a truly incredible experience, and you are very deserving of the position, and I am honored to pass the torch to you.

Jennifer Cohan, AAMVA Chair 2013-2014: Thank you very much Stacey – that's incredible coming from you. You've done such a fantastic job this year; you set the bar pretty high, so I'm a little nervous coming into this. When you came in as Chair, what were some of the things that kind of surprised you that you weren't necessarily prepared for?

Stanton: You don't have a manual, and I think that was one of the things that made me think, "I need to leave some notes for Jen. This is who you go ask, this is what you do." Mike Roberston [AAMVA Chair 2011-2012] passed on some really good advice that at the time I thought was a little bit strange: You're going to get to a point where things are back-to-back. He said, "Seriously, pack two bags, so that you come home, you drop one off with your family, you pick the other one up, and you go." And I thought, "Gosh, that's silly." Guess what? My first words of advice for you: pack two sets of bags.

Cohan: When I got the list from Neil [Schuster, AAMVA President & CEO], of the travel requirements alone and meetings you're required to go to, I was a bit surprised. It is a heck of a commitment.

Stanton: It is a heck of a commitment, and it is so rewarding. I got to travel to places and meet people that I hadn't met during my years as administrator or years on the AAMVA board. It is incredible, but I would encourage you – don't burn yourself out. The truth about the AAMVA family is that they will step in and help you at any point that you may need. The great thing is that whatever you need, whether it be your AAMVA colleagues or the AAMVA team at the office, they're there and they're ready to support you 1000 percent.

Cohan: Great, that's good to hear, that's definitely good to hear. I am blessed in Delaware because I have a fantastic team so I am very confident leaving them in charge, and it's a good opportunity for them as well. One of the things I want to make a priority as incoming Chair is some leadership training, so our second-level can stay in our industry, and we really need that succession planning. How do you suggest I go about leaving that mark?

Stanton: I think sit down and talk to the executive team within AAMVA. I think it's also something that you aren't alone in wanting. I think that the AAMVA board wants it, and our other jurisdictional colleagues want it. I would suggest that that be something that you center your year as Chair around – how do we look at talent management, talent acquisition, and succession planning. Why don't we work on a best practices that we can take back to the jurisdictions? We need to bring those people into the fold and we need to keep them here.

Cohan: So what are you most proud of?

Stanton: I think it's been a wonderful year. I am most proud that we got the State-to-State contract signed. That was definitely something that Mike Robertson put a lot of time and effort into. I wish that it had been completed under his reign, but I got the opportunity to sign it under mine. I would have liked to have seen the operating agreement with the Department of Justice signed related to NMVTIS, but we put quite a bit of work into that. I hope that that is concluded under your term. I hope I came across as being personable and approachable and I hope that everyone had some fun. We got a lot of good work done, but I hope we found some time for some camaraderie and collegiality as well.

Cohan: Absolutely, you've done a fantastic job this year. Your stamina has been impressive, and you really set the bar high. We've got a great board, and we look forward to keeping you as Immediate Past Chair to keep us straight.
Stanton: I appreciate that. I intend to fill that obligation. My Immediate Past Chair retired. The Immediate Chair before him retired. We couldn't go that far back, so I'm here for you!

Cohan: I need you, I need you sister!

Stanton: I'm here for you!