Q&A with Tammi Popp
Newly retired Director of Program Management, Driver and Vehicle Services at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and chair of the International Registration Plan
What has your career journey been like?
I started working for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT) in 2000. Over the years, I’ve held various positions throughout the DMV space—from contract management to budgeting, working on both driver’s licensing and the motor vehicle side of the business as well as the customer service operations and procurement. All these different steps have led me to my current position of overseeing projects and moving initiatives.
Why have you been successful in your current role?
There is a misconception that if you put systems around everything, you don’t need people—“systems are going to solve the world.” But it takes a team of smart people who understand the business and the inner workings of those systems to be able to communicate with both business and technical people. My team has been successful because there is such a need for these smart individuals in the DMV space, as there are so many systems and business procedures.
How has your involvement with AAMVA prepared you for your role in International Registration Plan (IRP) leadership?
I first became involved with AAMVA in 2012 as the ID management representative on the Vehicle Standing Committee. I learned quickly that if you raise your hand, ask questions and contribute, you get accepted into the community. I represented Pennsylvania on many AAMVA committees from 2012 through 2017.
Then, through the encouragement of the Pennsylvania DOT executive management, I got involved with the IRP in 2018 as a regional representative. I never planned to be on the board of directors, but I ran for vice chair in 2020 and got elected. Then I ran for chair of the board in 2021, and I am now serving my second (and final) term in 2022.
Working with IRP committees is similar to being part of the AAMVA community. It’s not just about your jurisdiction; you’re working for the collective good of everyone. Being involved with AAMVA gave me the confidence to take on the role of IRP chair. I knew I could be neutral in my decision-making, look at things at the highest level and have a perspective that would help move the country forward.
What are your goals and accomplishments as IRP chair?
IRP needs to modernize its systems to have a more user-friendly platform for the jurisdictions. We’ve been working on a new system that offers flexibility for the future and new opportunities for IRP to be involved in the transportation industry.
IRP also needs a long-term financial plan that gives it the ability to grow. We analyzed what it will take to maintain the new systems, and we now have a new fee structure that puts IRP in the best financial situation for the future.
What was your experience with the AAMVA Leadership Academy like?
I participated in the first year of the AAMVA Leadership Academy in 2014, and it was probably one of the best experiences of my career. It was refreshing to meet a group people who were all focused on how to be better leaders in the DMV space instead of doing another generic leadership training at the state level. I appreciated the focus on teamwork and how to get the team underneath you to believe in the DMV space.
Where do you find inspiration in your work?
Every day, people do their jobs and forget about the reason they are doing their jobs. They do things out of habit and just go through the motions. On our bad days, I say to my team: “When you drive home, look around at all those cars on the road. You help make it possible for all these people to drive their cars. From driver’s licenses to registration, you’ve made it possible for them to get where they need to be.”
This gives us a purpose for why we’re doing what we’re doing. It reminds us that we want safe drivers and safe vehicles on the road.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Cooking is one of my favorite things to do. I also enjoy saltwater fishing.
What are your goals for the next 5 to 10 years?
I want to continue to be a leader and someone who people look up to, helping the next generation see the big picture. I am thankful for the many people who saw potential in me when I didn’t see it in myself. I plan to continue to pay it forward.