Michigan Secretary of State Johnson visits Greenville office

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 11:35 am on Friday, September 27, 2013

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson speaks with employees at the Greenville Secretary of State office Thursday morning. — Daily News/Cory Smith

GREENVILLE — A trip to the Secretary of State office is made for a variety of reasons — renewing one’s license, purchasing a new license plate, or registering to vote.

But on Thursday, one visitor made a trip to the local Greenville office simply to say thank you to the employees working behind the desk.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson made the rare visit and greeted employees while also asking for input on what items she could focus on to make their jobs easier.

“I wanted to thank the employees here today,” Johnson said. “They rank very high here in Greenville. They do almost 100,000 transactions a year. These employees, they are the ones in the trenches working every day and I like to make these visits to find out what else I can do to help.”

Greenville Secretary of State Manager Trisha Howard said she and her employees were excited and eager to meet Johnson.

“We’ve been preparing for her visit for about a week,” she said. “It is very exciting to meet her. She is our boss, but we don’t see her daily. We try to do everything she asks, and do it well. Today was a great day.”

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson speaks at the Greenville Secretary of State office Thursday morning. — Daily News/Cory Smith

According to Johnson, two issues that the Greenville employees have done a “great job” at performing are promoting the Michigan State Park Recreation Passport and Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

“The recreation passport replaces the state park sticker to get you into all state parks, state recreation areas and state boat launches,” she said. “It used to be $25 to buy a sticker for your windshield to get into Michigan’s state parks. Now we sell them for $11. It’s a big problem, but a good problem, because we’ve done such a good job selling at the lower price, our state parks have been more crowded than ever.”

Johnson said by the end of October of this year, more money had been raised at the lower price than through an entire year of when the DNR previously charged $25 for a state park pass.

On the topic of the organ donor registry, Johnson said she was pleased to see employees making a stronger effort to get Michigan residents to join the registry.

According to Johnson, Michigan was previously the sixth worst state in the nation for organ donation registration.

“We have 3,100 people on the waiting list in Michigan,” she said. “The last thing you want to see is someone pass away who is waiting for an organ.”

But Johnson said in the past two years, more than 1 million Michigan residents have signed up.

“That’s a huge jump from where we were at,” she said. “We needed to do better. I asked our staff to simply ask when dealing with customers at our local offices.”

Johnson said a big part of that effort was made when the first question on one’s test to acquire a driver’s license was changed.

“The first question asked to get a driver’s license used to be, ‘Have you had a brain seizure in the past six months?’” she said. “But that has bumped to question No. 2 on the forms, replaced by a question asking whether or not one would like to join the organ donation registry.”

Johnson said she was also eager to promote a new statewide initiative aimed at battling auto insurance fraud.

Johnson recently launched an anti-fraud task force — Fighting Auto Insurance Rip-offs (FAIR) — that involves Michigan State Police, prosecutors, state officials and industry leaders.

Johnson said significant evidence of fake and fraudulent auto insurance has been uncovered in Michigan.

“We have bad guys who actually set up phony help desks so when our Secretary of State office clerks call to verify a policy, they reach a real person who vouches for a bogus auto insurance policy,” she said. “We are going to put the brakes on the criminals who are selling this stuff and are preying on unsuspecting Michigan drivers.”

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