August 2015

Q&A with incoming AAMVA chair of the board


Congratulations on being selected as the 2015–2016 AAMVA Chair of the Board! Can you briefly introduce yourself to the AAMVA community?

Thank you! I’m Rick Holcomb, and I’m currently serving my fourth term as the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. I served under two governors from 1994–2001, and then I left and went back to work in the private sector as the general counsel and senior vice president for the American Trucking Associations. I returned to the Virginia DMV in January of 2010 to resume the best job I’ve ever had. To be able to be a part of an agency that can make a difference in people’s lives on a day-to-day basis is amazing. When given the opportunity to come back and do it a second time, it was hard to say no.

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Jennifer Cohan presents Rick Holcomb with a PACE Award for the Virginia DMV’s mobile applications at the 2014 AAMVA Annual International Conference in Dover, Delaware.

How did you get your start in the transportation industry?

When I assumed this position in 1994, all I knew about the DMV was how to spell it. My background had been in mostly legal and political work. While I was working as chief of staff for Virginia Congressman D. French Slaughter, I helped set up an office for incoming Congressman George Allen. When [Allen] was elected governor of Virginia a couple of years later, he asked me to be a part of his administration and run the DMV. This was my first true entry into transportation.

Any favorite memories from working at the DMV?

In the late ’90s, Virginia became the first DMV to allow citizens to renew their driver’s licenses over the Internet. And our first customer was a Virginian stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia (over 600 miles from Virginia) who renewed his driver’s license from the state of Georgia at 7 a.m. the Sunday morning we launched the service.

A more recent experience was seeing how one of our mobile units helped a citizen get a new driver’s license and title and registration for her vehicle after her house had been picked up by a tornado and deposited in the Chesapeake Bay. But the best memories are those to come, when we will do something else innovative that will benefit our customers.

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

I want to make sure all AAMVA members see the value of the association and recognize that the subject matter experts at AAMVA can help move them forward. I also want to work with AAMVA to do more outreach and promote more partnerships with the federal government. For example, data exchange with the U.S. Passport Office to assist in establishing legal presence would be incredibly valuable. There’s also been discussion as to whether we could partner with the Department of Homeland Security in issuing the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC®).

Additionally, I want to work with our jurisdictional members north of the border to make sure we’re serving them and helping them with their needs. It’s important to me that Canadians see value in AAMVA.

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Rick Holcomb presents at the AAMVA Leadership Academy in November 2014.

What’s the most pressing topic in the motor vehicle community right now?

I would say that the biggest issue DMVs across North America are facing right now is keeping up with the needs of customers. Back in the ’90s, we started to revolutionize our customer flow by adding information, lobby chairs and queuing systems. But the office of the future may look very different because customers may be demanding different things. Figuring out what services millennials want and require is big.

At the Virginia DMV, the new philosophy we’ve had over the last five to six years is that DMVs should be government centers. We’ve asked ourselves, what other government services could we provide to our customers that would be helpful to them? Today, we title boats; sell hunting and fishing licenses; electronically confirm legal presence through EVVE; and, as of March 2014, we can sell customers certified copies of their Virginia birth certificates, which they need to prove legal residence when applying for ID cards.

Do you have any role models?

A big role model of mine was a federal district judge, James H. Michael Jr., for whom I worked as a law clerk. He was the kind of person who commanded respect rather than demanded it. You wanted to respect him for the person he was, not the position he held. I learned a lot from him about the nobility of being a public servant. He devoted a lot of his time to serving his fellow citizens.

My father, who worked as a federal employee for 32 years, was another role model. He was a dedicated public servant and certainly influenced me in so many regards.

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In 2012, Rick Holcomb (center) received a Customer Service Excellence Award for his commitment to furthering online migration of DMV services in Virginia.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My staff would tell you I have no free time. But when I do have some time, I like to do yard work and go on long walks. I also enjoy spending time with my three beagles: Bradley, Buddy and Bristol. As I travel and visit various service outlets across Virginia, I like to listen to books on tape. I’m currently working my way through a lot of my favorite authors. I am also an avid University of North Carolina fan, and during the fall you will see me attending all of the home football games.