Dick Kirkland, who is leaving the post of Washoe County sheriff to take over the state's troubled Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety, says he wants to focus on customer service.
He told a public administrators luncheon Thursday he had success with that approach both as Reno police chief and Washoe sheriff. And he said he first plans to pick the brains of the people actually doing the work at DMV.
"The people who are doing the job are the people who know what the problems are," he said.
Kirkland said he has found that approach "much better than if all the decisions are made in the ivory tower."
Kirkland said after the meeting he knew before taking the job that the possibility of breaking up DMV and Public Safety was being considered.
"I'll follow the governor's direction on this," he said. "The tendency is to say, hey, this thing (DMV) needs an identity."
He said the agency doesn't have a strong logical connection with Public Safety, which includes Parole and Probation, the Highway Patrol and Nevada Division of Investigations, among other agencies. He said that reinforces the argument for breaking up the functions.
"I'll tell you one thing: We can't do it if it costs more money," he said.
Kirkland takes over officially June 1 but said he is already there at least two days a week.
He said DMV's challenges will continue to increase because of huge numbers of new licenses and registrations, particularly in southern Nevada, but that changes to focus the entire operation on customer service can make big differences at DMV.
Kirkland said among the ideas he will be looking at are longer hours - possibly a second shift - and weekend service at busy DMV offices.
He and DMV officials said the new systems allowing Internet and phone renewals of basic auto registration and drivers' licenses are also coming on line this summer.