DMV Re-Opening Might Not Mean Business As Usual

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

"I've done this all my life and when they laid me off it was like losing a part of the family," explains Ellen Bowers, a 17-year veteran of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

When the state budget crunch coaxed Virginia Governor Mark Warner to close up shop at 12 DMV branches across the Commonwealth last fall, Bowers found herself without a job.

"I didn't know what else to do. I didn't want to go anywhere else. I wanted to do this because I enjoyed it. I realized how much I loved my job," he said.

Bowers has had a lot of time on her hands lately. But local officials and legislators have been swamped - fielding complaints from Valley citizens and proposing new ways the community can take care of their motorist needs close to home.

Enough pressure brought about a surprise reversal from the Warner administration. The Governor is now proposing that DMV re-open and re-hire the 120 employees it let go.

Mark Obenshain, Virginia Senate Candidate for the 26th District, says, "What the Governor said sounded great and people are excited about the reopening of the DMV offices. But time will tell what the governor has in mind."

Shenandoah County has been working on a plan to utilize its Commissioner of Revenue and Treasurer offices as DMV licensing agents. That would mean people wouldn't have to drive to Front Royal, Winchester or Harrisonburg and stand in long lines for routine services.

But that also means there wouldn't be a need to bring back the Woodstock DMV office or some of its staff. Bowers remains optimistic.

"Now that the Governor said it's a possibility I'm hoping he opens it and he opens it like it was before," says Bowers.

If DMV rights are handed over to local governments, Warner has said they could keep three and a half percent of the revenue generated. Some worry that won't be enough to cover all the expenses for the services they'll need to provide.


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