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August 2014

Q&A with the New Chair of the Board

Get to know the director of the Motor Vehicle Division for the Iowa Department of Transportation and incoming AAMVA Chair of the Board.

Congratulations on being chosen as the incoming AAMVA Chair of the Board! Can you briefly introduce yourself to the community?

Sure! First off, I’m from the Midwest: I was born in Illinois and moved to Iowa in 1978, where I have lived ever since. I received my bachelor’s degree from Iowa State in Ames and my law degree from Drake University in Des Moines. I worked as a lawyer for 15 years before coming to the [Iowa] Motor Vehicle Division in 2009. I’m married—my wife’s name is Linda—and we have four children. My oldest recently graduated from high school. As a family, we’re active in our church. I am a scoutmaster—both of my boys have been involved in Boy Scouts—and our girls are both active in soccer. Linda and I are both “retired” soccer coaches.

What are your goals and plans for your year as AAMVA Chair?

There are three things in particular that I want to focus on. First, I want to continue the work that Jennifer Cohan has started this year with the AAMVA leadership program. Second, I want to put AAMVA’s strategic plan into action. We’ve spent a lot of time on strategic planning this past year, and now it’s time to implement our plan to prepare the AAMVA community for the changes ahead. Third, after we complete the hiring process for our new CEO, I want to help welcome and introduce the person selected to our AAMVA community, and help continue and build upon the excellent work [former AAMVA CEO] Neil [Schuster] has done.

What are you most looking forward to about holding this position?

Being Chair of the Board is such a great opportunity to go out into the regions and interact with the Working Groups. I’m looking forward to having broader interactions with the AAMVA community.

Are there any topics that you want to bring to the attention of the AAMVA community during your time as chair?

One thing I would like to emphasize is that the motor vehicle administration community can help combat human trafficking. Quite a bit of human trafficking in the United States occurs through motor vehicles and commercial vehicles, and we have information and enforcement roles that can help find and rescue people that have become victims of trafficking. In Iowa, our enforcement community has worked with advocates for victims of trafficking and the commercial driving community to help drivers understand how to recognize and report potential victims.

Safety is, of course, another important topic for us, and as our strategic planning recognizes, autonomous vehicles have the capacity to not just change what we do administratively but, if done well, to significantly lower the number of highway deaths each year. Similarly, digital identity concepts have the capacity to transform what we do. We have to stay at the front of these efforts, being scribes and part of their development, rather than reactive.

Tell us a little bit about your career. How did you get to where you are today?

I graduated from Drake Law School in Des Moines in 1993 and then started with a law firm there. Initially, I focused primarily on personal injury litigation. Quite a bit of that litigation involved motor vehicle accidents, which got me involved in motor vehicle safety and traffic law. Eventually, I worked my way into a much more general practice, which continued to include litigation but expanded to areas such as estates, family law, business formation and business law, and real estate.

My experience led me to the Iowa Department of Transportation, which has very broad legal needs. In 2008 I joined the Iowa Attorney General’s office as the general counsel for the Iowa DOT. When the former director of the Iowa MVD retired in 2009, I was unexpectedly asked to take that position.

What has been one of your proudest accomplishments as director of the Iowa Motor Vehicle Division thus far?

Working to create a culture in which we are open, communicative and committed to dialogue. We’re striving for a culture that values transparency and the people who do the work—a culture that’s more ‘bottom-up’ and less ‘top-down.’ A change in culture is a long-term process, but I think we are well on that path.

Tell us a little bit about your involvement with AAMVA.

Shortly after I came to the Iowa DOT, I received a call from Neil [Schuster] asking if I would be AAMVA’s parliamentarian. I started attending board events from there.

Coming from general counsel, my involvement with AAMVA helped me assimilate into the motor vehicle administration community much more quickly than I might have otherwise, and it also helped me develop critical knowledge and resources more quickly. The very first AAMVA conference I attended, the 2009 AIC in San Diego, sticks out in my mind because it opened my eyes to how broad and far-reaching the AAMVA community is.

What are your hobbies?

I like to play the guitar, and I’ve always been a runner. The AAMVA board members give me a hard time about getting up early to go on runs when we’re at board meetings. I also do triathlons, and as a [Boy] Scouts leader, I go camping, hiking and adventuring. Occasionally I dabble in artwork—I like to draw—but I just don’t have the time like I used to.

Tell us something unique about yourself.

I’m a big fan of Spiderman, and I still regularly read my Spiderman comics.