BLOOMINGTON - The Illinois secretary of state's office needs to be driven more by customer service, said state Sen. Dan Rutherford.
The Republican from Chenoa hopes to win the office from incumbent Democrat Jesse White this November. He told the Pantagraph Editorial Board the first area he would address is the Vehicle Services Department of the secretary of state's office.
The problem is that state government approaches the service as a bureaucracy, he said.
"They don't have to worry about customers leaving," he said.
Calling White and himself both "good guys," Rutherford said the election should focus on a customer-service approach to Illinoisans.
"I'm not going to be disparaging. I just believe with my experience I can do a better job," said Rutherford, who also is vice president at Downers Grove-based ServiceMaster Corp. Rutherford has spent 14 year in the General Assembly and 20 years with ServiceMaster.
Rutherford outlined his motor vehicle reform plan during his stop Monday at the newspaper.
He suggests allowing customers to book appointments either online or by telephone. He contends the service available in other states, such as California and Wisconsin, could cut down on wait times at motor vehicle service facilities.
Rutherford also calls for allowing credit card and debit card payments at all Illinois motor-vehicle sites. Currently, he said about 15 percent of the sites have the capability.
White spokesman Dave Drucker said an appointment system wouldn't guarantee timely service.
"Imagine a doctor's office," he said.
Waits for drivers needing services have been cut during White's administration, he added.
As secretary of state, White has instituted a number of reforms that use technology better, Drucker said, noting many people are eligible to renew driver's licenses online.
To help improve verification of identities, White has teamed up with the Social Security Administration to watch for fraudulent Social Security cards, he said.
Rutherford said he also is looking into how to allow drivers to opt for e-mail reminders for expiration dates for such things as renewal stickers.
Rutherford said he would work to streamline front desk attendant duties at the facilities. He said he would personally visit all 130 sites to work behind the counter and get to know issues at each facility.
"This is not budget-buster stuff," Rutherford said. "But it is a novel approach to government, a customer-service perspective."
Rutherford promises to explain other changes he'd make as secretary of state in upcoming white papers.
One paper, "Service Commitment," outlined his proposals for the Vehicle Services Department. That paper is available at his Web site. www.danrutherford.org.
The next should be released this month, he said.