Gov. Frank Murkowski has tapped longtime Kenai City Council member Duane Bannock to head the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles.
Reached at Kenai Chrysler Center, where he is vice president, Bannock, 36, said the governor called at precisely 51 seconds after 3 p.m. Monday to congratulate him on getting the appointment. He said he remembered the exact time because he checked his cellphone.
Bannock said he began lobbying for the job as soon as Murkowski was elected, and now that he has it, he's more than ready for the new challenges.
"I've always fired off a lot of potshots at the DMV," he admitted. "I saw an opportunity to make some changes. I started letting it be known I was qualified."
Former director Mary Marshburn resigned Jan. 3. Deputy director Charles Hosack is acting director.
Bannock said the support of some influential friends may have helped sway the governor, including that of his boss, Bob Favretto, former Sen. John Torgerson, who he said wrote to Department of Administration Commissioner Mike Miller on his behalf, and Jim Butler, a member of Murkowski's transition team.
Bannock said he intends to make some changes. If he's successful, he could win a lot of popular praise.
"I've been adamant that long lines and slow service do not have to be expected at the DMV," he said.
Bannock wants to allow car dealerships to perform many of the day-to-day functions of DMV offices, functions that create those long lines, such as picking up license plates for new vehicles and renewing registrations.
"The majority of new transactions go through a licensed car dealership anyway," he said. "When you get a new car or get rid of an old one, the majority of the time there is a dealership involved."
A pilot plan to do just that already exists, he said. Bannock wants to make it the standard.
The average person won't know the difference until the day they go to a DMV office and find they're served much faster, he said.
If that works, Bannock said, he has a phase two in mind. A variety of stores can sell an angler a fishing license, he said. He sees no reason why registration renewals can't be performed at dealerships, too.
Bannock is enthusiastic, but he didn't promise the moon.
"I wasn't so brash as to promise a cost savings, but I did promise the governor that in 12 months we'd have shorter lines at the DMV," he said.
Bannock has served on the Kenai City Council since 1992. He most recently was re-elected in October. Asked what he would tell his constituents about leaving his elected post to "become a bureaucrat," as he put it, Bannock said he'd tell them he's always wanted to change the world. He said he's tried to do that in Kenai.
"Now I have an opportunity to change a little more of the world," he said.
Kenai Mayor John Williams said Bannock's appointment did not come as a complete surprise.
"He discussed this with me a week or so ago," he said. "He's been a good council person. He's served his constituents in the best manner he thinks he should."
Bannock once challenged Williams for the mayor's job, but lost to the longtime mayor. Williams said while the two have sometimes not seen eye to eye, they have gotten along well.
The central office for DMV is in Anchorage, and Bannock said his short-term plan is to commute from Kenai to Anchorage. He plans to resign his city council seat. His last meeting will be Feb. 19.
Bannock graduated from Cook Inlet Academy in 1982. He has been married to his wife, Carol, for more than 18 years. They have two children.
He was appointed to the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission and served from 1988 until he was first elected to the Kenai council.
He's been a member of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, the Kenai Rotary Club and been the council's liaison to the Kenai Parks and Recreation Commission. He's been a board member of the Kenai Peninsula United Way and a past charter board member of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.
"The worst part of all of this is leaving Kenai," Bannock said.
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