Idaho Transportation

Public Affairs Office
P.O. Box 7129
Boise, ID 83707
Fax: 208.334.8563

Ain't goin' to be no Moe no more
– Detmar closes 27-year ITD career –

A miniature U-Haul truck sits atop a cabinet in Moe Detmar’s office, bringing to mind the corporation’s old motto “Adventure in Moving.” The phrase appropriately describes Detmar’s 27-year pilgrimage through the Idaho Transportation Department and foretells of the experience to come when he closes his office door for the last time.

Detmar, who has managed the Division of Motor Vehicles the past nine years, will officially begin the new adventure in mid-August upon retirement. But with accrued leave, he will vacate the office and, for practical purposes, conclude his distinguished career Friday (July 2).

Call him driven, but life for Detmar has been an unending series of journeys from point A to point B and back. Straying from the straight line to explore along the way has been a rare luxury. Time constraints. Scheduling demands. Unfinished work.

But the straight line is about to become much more circuitous.

Detmar looks forward to less focused energies and being able to “get off the schedule.” Spontaneous. Unfettered. Seeing the trees and the forest.

“I want to take time to explore and appreciate what lies between point A and B, what lies beyond the beaten path. There’s a whole lot of Idaho that I haven’t seen yet.”

Such as his favorite neighborhood – the picturesque Stanley area. And Sandpoint, and Coeur d’Alene and Salmon… and of course, oft-visited vacation spots along the Oregon Coast.

The vagabond life may come sooner than expected.

Moe and wife Mary – who retired last year as manager of ITD’s Budget, Policy and Intergovernmental Relations office – this spring purchased a 30-foot fifth-wheel trailer. It will be yoked to a new GMC diesel-powered pickup truck “… the pickup all guys buy just before retiring,” he says with a wry smile.

Home away from home
The marriage of the fifth-wheel and new truck took some time to consummate, however. With space limited at home, Detmar left the trailer in storage at the sales lot. More than a month after purchasing it, the fifth-wheel still hasn’t held its first sleep-over.

Sensitive to the prevailing sentiment, he hastened to tell people that he originally was from Washington, not California. He also explained that he closed the gate when he left the Bay Area, but someone opened it again.

Even before it hits the road, it could become home, though.

The Detmars recently sold their home of 12 years in Eagle and are deciding where to build a successor. They are considering several lots in developments south of Interstate 84 near Eagle Road. Their primary criteria? Their new home must be readily accessible (no congestion, please) to the interstate and be able to accommodate their new travel mode.

If all goes well, they should have a permanent home in Meridian by this fall, at which time their old neighborhood will become a “destination spot” – a nice place to visit but much too congested to call home.

“It’s hard to leave that house and hard to leave Eagle,” Detmar admits. Especially since he and Mary are avid golfers and their home rested near the 10th tee box at Eagle Hills golf course.

Detmar was part of a migration in 1977 when he left the San Francisco area and his job as regional manager of a chain of small convenience stores. He wanted to escape the congested lifestyle and join his sister and brother-in-law in a less crowded Boise area.

California refugee
Sensitive to the prevailing sentiment, he hastened to tell people that he originally was from Washington, not California. He also explained that he closed the gate when he left the Bay Area, but someone opened it again.

To provide for his family in its new home, Detmar called on his management experience and his passion for bowling. Both were combined into a position as night manager of the old Cosmopolitan Bowling Alley on the east end of Myrtle Street – near today’s location of the Idaho Fish and Game office and Washington Group International.

Shortly after accepting the job, he also became part of a post-interstate construction wave of hiring in the transportation department. He was among 11 people (Detmar calls them the magnificent 11) hired in Right-of-Way and served as a trainer under Bruce White.

“There were a lot of tremendous people in that original Right-of-Way section who went on to become important people in the department,” Detmar says. “They were an important nucleus.”

His contemporaries included Jerry Bailey, J. Brent Smith, Terry Culvert, Len George, Bob Medley, Kathy Chase and John Tompkinson. The latter two remain ITD colleagues, although Tomkinson also is marching steadily toward retirement.

“I’m a retail grocer by training prior to government. I had to have customers or I wouldn’t have a business. If a customer wanted Twinkies, I had to make sure we had Twinkies on the shelf.”

Detmar left Right-of-Way in 1984 to become a Port of Entry training specialist, first assigned to develop and conduct a training program for the federal bridge law. Shortly thereafter, he became Herb Kinney’s assistant in registration services (now vehicle and motor carrier services).

Through organizational evolution, it became title and dealer operations (1987), for which Detmar became section manager. In 1995, new ITD Director Dwight Bower promoted him to administrator of the Division of Motor Vehicles where he has fostered constant growth in customer service and the use of technology.

If customers want Twinkies, stock Twinkies
Actually, the two – service and technology – are inexorably linked. Technologically sophisticated customers expect a new kind of service, such as records processing. ITD has responded by using technology to expedite, simplify and coordinate delivery of its services.

That often requires employees to read between the lines and paint with shades of gray, rather than black and white, Detmar suggests. “We have to be flexible without losing sight of the legal requirements.”

Title transfer transactions do not always follow a fixed formula. DMV employees need to be aware of the intent of the requirements and use a common-sense approach to decision making. For example, when ownership cannot be proven on vehicles more than 10 years old, signed personal affidavits can suffice. That places responsibility on the customer and prevents a long, arduous document search process.

“I tried to develop a reasonability in decision making,” he said. “I’ve always been driven by the question ‘what is the right thing to do in this situation.’

“I’m a retail grocer by training prior to government. I had to have customers or I wouldn’t have a business. If a customer wanted Twinkies, I had to make sure we had Twinkies on the shelf.

“I learned very early that we couldn’t make decisions and announce ‘this is the way it is.’ Our model is to offer as many options as possible. I’m convinced that people want to comply; we want to make it as easy as possible for them to comply instead of forcing them.”

That’s why DMV still holds to the over-the-counter, face-to-face service while introducing new approaches such as license renewal by mail, telephone, fax and most recently, via the Internet.

Customer service is the common element of most DMV changes over the past decade. On Detmar’s watch, the department has introduced:

  • Digital drivers licenses
  • Graduated licenses for young drivers
  • The “One Stop Shop” delivery of services to commercial truck owners and operators
  • Electronic lien filing
  • Way-in-motion technology at two Ports of Entry
  • Updated Ports of Entry facilities
  • A broadly embraced, employee-driven, employee recognition program, “Praising and Promoting Kowalitdy” that bestows quarterly awards for YES (Your Excellence Shows), Quality Service and Quality Time
  • Electronic access to drivers’ records for authorized constituents
  • Internet registration/renewal
  • Registration and licensing at auto dealers
  • Online services for commercial carriers in partnership with Access Idaho, the state’s Internet service provider, and
  • A customer complaint process (he reads every letter of criticism)

It's all about people
Idaho’s DMV also has hosted the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) regional conference three times in the past 14 years, including one in Sun Valley at which Detmar presided as president.

He has been very active in AAMVA leadership, serving on the national AAMVA board the past eight years. During that time, Detmar has established personal and professional friendships that will last a lifetime.

In fact, relationships are at the core of Detmar’s 27-year ITD career. All of his accomplishments can be summed up in people.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the people we have in the division and of what they have accomplished. Their successes have made me look good… I will miss the people a lot.”