AUSTIN (KXAN) — Former Texas Department of Motor Vehicles executive director Whitney Brewster referenced the state’s paper license problems in her resignation letter, which came on Monday amid a series of KXAN investigations and turmoil over the tag troubles.
“Addressing temporary tag abuse has been our highest priority,” Brewster wrote in the Feb. 7 letter, noting her resignation was effective that day. “I am proud of the way the department has not shied away from this issue and has transparently and tirelessly worked with law makers, social media, law enforcement, stakeholders and the public to find remedies.”
Brewster said she had taken the “necessary reforms” based upon the “latitude given” to the agency.
“In leaving,” she wrote, “the deck is clear for new leadership.”
Brewster’s resignation was followed by another days later when the TxDMV general counsel, Tracey Beaver, stepped down. Beaver did not reference the state’s tag troubles in her letter, instead saying she felt “a sense of pride” looking back on her nearly three years with the department.
“But like all good things,” Beaver wrote, “my tenure at the agency must come to an end.”
Sgt. Jose Escribano with Travis County Constable Pct. 3 said Brewster’s resignation was a “total shock” given that she offered to meet with him, and other law enforcement, a little over a week prior at the Jan. 27 board meeting.
“We were going to talk and we were going to assist them in trying to get this thing fixed,” said Escribano, who has been at the forefront pushing for changes. “So that was a shock. A total shock. “
At the Feb. 10 TxDMV board meeting, Brewster’s name was still on the agenda, reflecting her sudden departure. Escribano questions the timing of her decision to leave.
“It was too sudden for me,” he said. “I mean, where did that come from?”
Escribano says new leadership at the agency could be “a good thing” as long as progress keeps being made to cut down on the tag fraud, which has ballooned into a $200 million black market impacting all 50 states.
“It hasn’t worked for four years so eventually you have to go ahead and take some steps,” said Escribano. “But [Brewster] said she was taking some steps so I believed that and I wanted to work with [her] and than that happened. Shocking.”
Brewster’s letter does not give a reason why she decided to step down, which comes a decade after she first started with the agency. In an email to staff, she said the decision came with “a heavy [heart] and mixed emotions.“
“Unfortunately, challenges and difficulties still face the state and organization,” she wrote. “I understand the frustrations of our stakeholders to the problems and evolving situations we are working daily to resolve.”
Brewster had come under fire in recent months for the agency’s handling of a temporary tag problem that has turned into a national security risk for law enforcement. In December, she faced tough questions about her agency’s handling of the temporary tag problem.
“Often the hardest thing to do as a public servant leader is to step back and accept that you have done everything you can,” she wrote in her letter, “and that it might be time to allow new leadership to take the reins and continue moving the agency successfully into the future.”
The TxDMV appointed Daniel Avitia as acting executive director on Thursday.