Singleton Focused On “The People, The Process And The Technology”
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MARCH 15, 2023…..After nearly four years of turnover in its once-scandal-plagued office, Merit Rating Board members on Wednesday cited a desire for “consistency” as they agreed to hire the MRB’s interim director on a permanent basis.
Sonja Singleton has served since 2021 as temporary leader of the unit within the Registry of Motor Vehicles that collects and reports driving record information. All three board members preferred Singleton over the other finalist, Jessica Perez-Rossello, who currently works as deputy chief operations officer for MassHealth.
The unit and its governing board share the same name — the Merit Rating Board — and had garnered little attention in recent years until revelations in 2019 of a significant work backlog. Tens of thousands of out-of-state driver violations had been stacked in boxes, unprocessed, and one was tied to a driver involved in a seven-fatality crash in New Hampshire.
Registrar of Motor Vehicles Erin Deveney quickly resigned, and the ensuing scandal led to the public firing of MRB Director Thomas Bowes in August 2019.
Singleton is one of two interim directors to have filled the role since then, along with Paolo Franzese, who led the board as it cut its backlog from 22,000 “work items” to around 13,000 between August and October of 2019.
“This is an agency that will benefit from consistency,” said one of the governing board’s members, Glenn Kaplan, who represents the attorney general’s office on the panel. He added, “I think that having a steady person at the top who’s going to be able to move forward with a consistent vision is important.”
Commissioner of Insurance Gary Anderson referenced “a little bit of turnover in the last several years.”
Anderson said that Singleton’s “resume, her qualifications, her demeanor, her proven ability to do the job over the course of a year-plus time frame, clearly makes her stand out.”
The third board member, Registrar of Motor Vehicles Colleen Ogilvie, said both Singleton and Perez-Rossello had “excellent qualifications” including experience complying with state laws and regulations. Before her time as MassHealth, Perez-Rossello was the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s chief information officer.
Ogilvie singled out Singleton, though, to praise the interim director’s creation of “standard operating procedures” in the once-turbulent MRB office, and her focus on the “human side” of the operation.
Singleton showed an ability for “connecting with employees, providing needed training for performance improvement, and ensuring employees understand their role in the organization as well as how the entire Merit Rating department operates,” the registrar said.
Forty-three candidates applied for the job, according to Ogilvie, and nine advanced to interviews last fall.
After interviewing the two finalists in December, the board expected to make its hiring decision in January but the decision was put off after a planned Jan. 17 meeting was canceled.
Singleton worked for 24 years at Boston Financial Data Services, according to her LinkedIn profile, followed by two years as compliance manager at the Dimock Center in Roxbury. She joined the Registry of Motor Vehicles in 2020 as the agency’s director of policy and risk before stepping into the MRB role in November 2021.
“I do have a plan,” Singleton said in her December job interview. “The whole goal for myself when I joined and then going forward was to work on the people, the process and the technology.”