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August 2016

Q&A with The California DMV Director

Jean Shiomoto is the director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles and 2016–2017 AAMVA Chair of the Board.

You worked for the state of California as an auditor before joining the DMV. What prompted you to make the change?

I began working for the state in 1980 with the Department of Developmental Services, and I went on to work at the California Department of General Services and the Franchise Tax Board. I came to work at the DMV in 1988 in the financial systems section, which supported the accounting system and other systems at the DMV. I applied for the role because it was an opportunity to change jobs and do something different, interesting and tangible. Twenty-eight years later, here I am, still at the DMV, and I’ve never looked back!

Throughout your career with the DMV, what has been your proudest accomplishment?

In 2015, we implemented Assembly Bill 60 (AB 60), the Safe and Responsible Driver Act, which was to issue licenses for undocumented immigrants. We spent 2014 preparing. We hired 1,000 employees, opened four temporary driver’s license processing centers and had over 200 outreach events.

AB 60 took effect on Jan. 2, 2015, and in the first year, we’ve licensed over 600,000 undocumented immigrants, have seen over 800,000 applicants and administered close to 2 million knowledge tests and drive tests. We also won the AAMVA 2015 PACE category 7D award for our use of social media to improve customer service during that campaign. It was our top priority and a major effort on our part to do it successfully. All hands on deck. I’m extremely proud of that.

California has more residents on the road than any other jurisdiction. What is the key to serving as director of the DMV, and now, as the 2016–2017 AAMVA Chair of the Board?

For me, it’s time management, prioritizing and balancing resources. I have to balance resources to be able to provide quality customer service, continue to automate processes and modernize our IT system, and then implement several state and federal mandates. I also know how to balance my time between work, the community and home. For instance, while I was taking on the role of chief deputy director and director of the DMV, I served as the vice president and president of the Board of the Asian Community Center (ACC) Senior Services (a nonprofit serving seniors) for two years. I also have a great executive management team that supports me, and I know they can handle things if I’m not available. I wouldn’t take on a role if I didn’t have a good, solid team behind me.

You’ve been on AAMVA’s Board of Directors since 2012. What’s one of the best parts of working with AAMVA?

It has been a pleasure getting to know the AAMVA staff. Everyone is very knowledgeable and professional. I tremendously respect what they do for the AAMVA organization and the support they provide for all the jurisdictions.

What does it mean to you to be selected as the new Chair of the Board?

It’s an honor and very humbling to be selected as the Chair and to lead all the jurisdictions. I want to continue to promote what AAMVA does best, which is providing the services for the jurisdictions in terms of systems, member support, subject matter expertise, surveys, webinars, and through various work groups and committees. AAMVA leads the way in providing information for guidelines and best practices to follow so jurisdictions don’t need to reinvent the wheel and come up with everything themselves.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

My husband and I like to take our three dogs for a walk in the evenings. I also like to try new restaurants and bake. I’m known for making treats and giving them to AAMVA folks when I can squeeze in the time to bake and get them on the airplane. I make good lemon bars, and I make a really good snack mix—it’s addictive.