Without Managers Like Tesler, Government Cannot Truly Deliver

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Baker administration removed the "acting" from the title of Acting Registrar of Motor Vehicles Jamey Tesler this past week, suggesting that the overhaul of the management of that agency, a critical public safety bureaucracy, remains a work-in-progress.

Otherwise, I suspect that Tesler would, just about now, be taking on another high-level assignment in the Baker administration or a better paying job in the private sector.

You may recall that, in late June, 2019, the RMV was shaken to its foundation when a young man from Western Massachusetts, whose driver's license should have been suspended, drove a pick-up truck pulling a large trailer into a line of motorcyclists in Randolph, New Hampshire, killing by blunt force trauma five men and two women.

In the aftermath, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles was forced from her job and Tesler was persuaded by the governor and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack to quit his job as chief of staff at Suffolk Construction, become acting registrar, and make the big, difficult changes needed at the RMV to avoid a repeat of this horrific event.

In the early going, that primarily involved clearing up a backlog of thousands of cases where Massachusetts drivers who had run afoul of the law in other states -- and who should have had their Massachusetts driving privileges summarily suspended -- continued to operate vehicles here, often for incredibly long spells.  They constituted a major threat to public safety on our roads.  And no one had really done anything about it.

In announcing last week that Tesler's appointment had been made permanent, Secretary Pollack said:

"After stepping up to lead the Registry of Motor Vehicles at a difficult time, Jamey has reprioritized and re-oriented the RMV and MRB (Merit Rating Board) around public safety responsibilities and functions, while transforming the RMV's service model in the midst of a pandemic.

"He has built a strong leadership team and excellent relationships with the workforce while demonstrating the ability to identify and implement changes in longstanding practices that failed to ensure that the Registry met its core safety and credentialing functions."

Like many who serve in government positions, including a slew of highly educated and motivated legislative aides at the State House, Tesler defies negative stereotypes of public employees; for example, that they don't have the stuff to work in the private sector, that they don't do much when on the clock, and that they care mainly about their pensions and other benefits.

Tesler is Exhibit A of your tax dollars actually at work.

He's a graduate of the Ivy League (University of Pennsylvania, 1995) and a Big Ten law school (University of Michigan, 1998).  In addition to significant work in the private sector, such as at an international law firm, he has more than 16 years of experience in senior management roles in the public sector.

Tesler has been the general counsel in the office of the Massachusetts State Treasurer, the deputy legal counsel at the MBTA, the deputy legal counsel in the office of the governor, and both chief of staff and chief operating officer at MassDOT.

Tesler is not a pal of mine; we are not related by blood or marriage.  He would say hello to me if we passed each other on the sidewalk because of his inherent politeness, but he probably would not remember my name.  I stipulate to these facts in the hope you'll see my admiration for him as on the level.

The last time I was in his presence was on a client matter -- for the Massachusetts Railroad Association, the trade group for the freight-hauling railroads, I believe. It was around ten years ago, when he would have been serving as a deputy secretary at MassDOT.  I cannot remember the subject matter; it may have had something to do with the state's Industrial Rail Access Program.  Tesler asked good, pointed questions. He didn't say much. He listened sincerely, thoughtfully. In my line of work, that's a good outing.

Thank you for entering public service, Mr. Registrar, and for returning to same, sacrificing much in the process!

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