Governor Newsom appoints strike team to fix 'chronically mismanaged' California DMV

The long lines, and accompanying horror stories, had Sacramento legislators scrambling to fix the beleaguered Department of Motor Vehicles. Now, newly sworn-in California Governor Gavin Newsom has that agency, and its leadership, in the crosshairs. 

Newsom announced Thursday that fixing a state agency he calls “chronically mismanaged” is now a priority. He’s appointing current GovOps Secretary Marybel Batjer to head a six-month strike team aimed at finding new DMV leadership, and recommending reforms to improve service.

“I went into the DMV and was shocked at the line going around the block like a concert line,” said Asm. Phil Ting – (D) San Francisco.

He was one of the first to call for an overhaul of the DMV, after his own horror story last Summer. Some reforms from the previous administration, such as the use of kiosks, are already in place. Credit card could be accepted for payment sometime this year. Ting says he’s confident Secretary Batjer will be able to fully re-make the one agency most California resident deal with.

“The secretary, throughout her career, has been given the tough fix-it jobs. When she’s sent in somewhere to fix ‘em. So I think she is very smart, very hardworking. And she’s gonna roll up her sleeves and get in there and really try and get some results quickly,” said Ting.

Last year, the lines at many California DMV offices got to be so long, it defied logic. 

“Three-hour wait. Very long wait. Yeah, I wish they could do something more about that,” said customer Michelle Sarinana, who was back at the DMV office in the Alma neighborhood of San Jose.   

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There were also glowing words of praise, from the current DMV head. In a statement Sec. Brian Annis said, “We welcome the expertise that Secretary Batjer brings during this critical time.  I’m confident in her ability to assist the Department of Motor Vehicles during this time of improvement and innovation.

“If they can do that, if they can work that magic, I’d be happy. Because it’s always been an issue,” said Sarinana, as she stood in a line that provided faster service than last Summer.

Improvements won’t come fast and won’t be cheap. The strike team has a six-month window, but that could be extended. And Newsom still hasn’t said how much it’ll cost taxpayers to save hours of frustration at a dysfunctional DMV.