By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON -- As Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprielian joins the governor's Cabinet, the top job at the RMV has gone to Celia Blue, the assistant secretary of performance management and innovation in the Department of Transportation.
Blue was previously a deputy registrar, responsible for customer service operations, and according to MassDOT she helped the agency partner with AAA and reduce wait times at call centers and branches. The Registry is responsible for motor vehicle operator licensing and vehicle and aircraft registration in Massachusetts, and oversees vehicle inspection stations.
Both the RMV and Labor and Workforce have a large customer service component. The registry has about 800 employees and a budget of $63 million, Kaprielian told a budget panel last year, where she reported the agency has weathered staff reductions "very well", reducing its branches from 35 to 30 over five years.
A Worcester State College and Anna Maria College graduate, Blue was also a commissioner on the former Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission. Blue is a Worcester resident, according to records that show she donated to Gov. Deval Patrick, Rep. Gloria Fox and Charlotte Golar Richie, a candidate for mayor of Boston in 2013.
A Watertown Democrat who served in the House from 1994 until 2008 when Patrick appointed her registrar, Kaprielian has overseen the agency as it has closed branches, lost staff, focused on online services and began the process of updating its computer system.
The RMV computer upgrade will overhaul a system that dates back to 1986, and Kaprielian said looking into the troubled Department of Unemployment Assistance website will be one of her major tasks.
"As soon as I get in a position, I'm going to be looking at all the things that are troubled, all the things that are working, and try to continue what's working, grow what's working and address and fix what's troubled," Kaprielian told reporters.
Gov. Deval Patrick announced Kaprielian's appointment and Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Joanne Goldstein's departure at a noon press conference in the State House.
"It's not just up to the Secretary to ensure that the system is functioning well for the people who depend on it. It's up to all of us. Secretary Goldstein has made sure that we have a strong contract in place with Deloitte to hold them accountable for any fixes and improvements that need to be made to UI Online so that it works smoothly for claimants, and I'm confident that the system is working well for the vast majority of users." Patrick said in a statement in response to a reporter's question. "I know there are still small issues popping up here and there and we take those seriously, but I'm confident that Rachel will continue the team's insistence that those issues get resolved quickly for the people who rely on this assistance."
The RMV faced criticism for ending its practice of alerting drivers through the mail that their license was about to expire, before reversing course in a November announcement that the registry would send reminders via post cards.
Citizens can currently register to vote at RMV locations and can file RMV paperwork at insurance agencies. MassDOT will be making a push to enroll more people in its EZ-Pass system as it seeks to scuttle toll booths in favor of all electronic tolling.
The RMV has provided photo identification for welfare recipients, which was required by a law that passed in the summer of 2013. The Senate has also tasked the agency, in its voting reform bill, with providing information to the secretary of state to allow voters to move around without registering anew.
"Unemployment identifies people and the registry has more identifying factors on an individual," said Kaprielian when asked about similarities between the two offices.
Patrick said goodbye to four top aides in December 2012 after asking his staff to commit to staying on with his administration through the end.
"Being EOWLD secretary and part of your administration has been the high point of my career and allowed me to work for economic and social justice for working families, and to work with the business community to create new and more skilled jobs," said Goldstein, who has held the post since 2010 and is leaving for a job as associate vice president at Northeastern University.
Asked if he expected any other changes in his Cabinet, Patrick wheeled around to where his secretaries flanked him in Doric Hall, and said, "They better not."
"Joanne has been a strong leader in addressing the workforce needs of our businesses and employers, providing labor protections and advocating for good jobs with quality wages and safe working conditions for workers," Patrick said. He said she oversaw the recovery of nearly $39 million on an underground economy task force.
Patrick plans to give his State of the State address Tuesday and unveil his annual budget Wednesday.
"The governor, as we will learn next week, is not taking his foot off the pedal. There's a lot he wants to accomplish, and there's a lot to do," Kaprielian told reporters. She later said, "A year is a long time."