There is no faster route to North Carolina’s political graveyard than an appointment as commissioner of motor vehicles.
Most commissioners are predisposed to failure because they have no business trying to run a multilayered, technical-service-oriented governmental agency. For some reason, governors think they can appoint political hacks to run the agency, and then they are shocked beyond belief when scandal follows.
I like to call the DMV the political equivalent to the graveyard of the Atlantic because it will sink the mightiest of political ships.
Remember the Algie Toomer scandal? Remember George Tatum? The missing driver’s license production units?
So, we should not be shocked when we read news of dysfunction, poor management and lax leadership — look at who you are asking to run the place: people with political ambitions, backgrounds and pressures – not professionals.
Watching the current DMV director try to explain the long lines at most DMV offices was painful at best. He lacked command, seemed ill prepared and could not convey what the state was doing to fix the problem.
You have some really smart political folks in Gov. Cooper’s administration; you would think they would realize it was time to reach out to some professionals for help — and here’s why.
DMV is the single most important public-interaction portal in state government. At some point, most North Carolinians end up having to interact with DMV. Too often, such interactions are visiting the dentist, but they shouldn’t be.
Some really smart business leaders in our state deal with complicated logistics every day. It would make sense to reach out to some of these people for help. For example, how does Lowe’s Home Improvement run multiple stores with thousands of employees and still focus on positive customer outcomes?
One possible fix for DMV would be taking the approach Jack Welch used in the early 1990s, when he was reorganizing General Electric. Create a special task force that is not involved in day-to-day operations that can look at the bigger picture for DMV, its mission and its function.
Perhaps, bring in executives from Lowe’s, Wells Fargo, McKesson, FedEx and others to help staff the task force — find someone who knows how to run big operations and make them customer friendly.
One thing is for sure: You won’t get different outcomes when you stick with the policy of putting ill-equipped, political appointees in to run the Division of Motor Vehicles. That is a recipe for disaster, has been in the past, is today and will continue to be in the future.
Maybe someone in the State Capitol is smart enough to figure that out.
Brad Crone is president of Campaign Connections, a Raleigh consulting firm specializing in public affairs, public relations and grassroots campaigns for trade associations, advocacy groups and corporations.