Ketchikan’s courthouse and state office building, home to the local Division of Motor Vehicles office, is shown in 2020. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

Ketchikan’s DMV is offering only limited services while the state agency replaces employees who left this summer. That’s frustrated local residents needing title transfers, road tests and other services not available online.


Sean Gilmon needed three vehicle title transfers  — and he needed them urgently. He said he’s used to just walking into Ketchikan’s Division of Motor Vehicles office and being done in 15 minutes. But this time, that wasn’t an option. 

“I just really wish they had somebody here,” he said. “It’s kind of like the lifestyle you choose living on an island that only has access to limited things…but it is kind of an inconvenience.” 

There wasn’t anyone on staff who could process the transfers. So Gilmon was left with two choices: he could mail in paperwork to the DMV headquarters in Anchorage and wait weeks for it to get back, or he could wait for the Ketchikan office to start offering those services again. 

But he needed the transfers done now, he said. So he took a trip to the Craig DMV on Prince of Wales Island, spending over eight hours just to get there and back.

I didn’t want to wait around for a maybe,” he said. “I just decided to go ahead and just get it done.”

And he’s not alone in his problem. Alaska House Rep. Dan Ortiz said he’s been hearing lots of concern from his constituents. They’ve been reaching out to his office, calling his cell and even stopping him in the street, he said. 

“I was hearing more about this particular issue than any other issue,” he said. “…That’s been the number one issue for the community of Ketchikan, is lack of services available to them at the DMV office.”

Right now, the Ketchikan office can process non-commercial driver’s license and ID card transactions, said DMV Deputy Director Jenna Wright. But the majority of services are limited or unavailable at the office, including road tests and title transfers. 

It’s been that way for over a month, after the office’s two full-time employees left the DMV in June. Wright said one new employee was hired in early June, and is currently in training. The DMV offers a complex plethora of services, and it takes time for anyone to learn the system, she said. 

“It’s a bit of a laddered approach,” she said. “So once they master one thing, then they move on to the next.”

For now, the DMV is trying to fill the gaps. Wright said an employee from the Anchorage office recently came down to Ketchikan for a week to offer road tests and commercial license services. As for the other vacancy, she said they’re actively recruiting for another hire. The job posting will close Monday, July 26th, she said.

“We plan to immediately screen all of those applicants, schedule interviews and hire somebody just as quickly as humanly possible,” Wright said. “It’s very important to us to not only help the current employee but also to be able to offer more services to Ketchikan.”

In the meantime, Wright says most DMV services are available online. As for things that need an ink signature — like title transfers — she says the DMV will expedite processing for Ketchikan residents who mail in their paperwork. 

Teenagers who need a road test for a driver’s license are stuck waiting, though Wright said not for much longer. She estimates non-commercial tests will resume in August, and commercial licensing will be available in early September. By the end of September, Wright expects Ketchikan’s DMV office to be back to normal.

But some people — like Gilmon, who island-hopped for a title transfer — won’t be able to wait for the delay of services. Still, Gilmon says he hopes people stay patient with the new employees.

I just hope that when the new person gets in, they’re not too overwhelmed,” he said. “Because there’s a lot of people waiting, and a lot of people hoping but there’s gonna be a lot of people super happy that they got somebody there.”