PHOTOS BY DAN STARCHER | Wayne County government
Wayne County Auditor and Deputy Registrar Jarra Underwood poses with Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) Office Manager Bonnie Alfred. Alfred is retiring after 45 years of licensing industry service.
Bonnie Alfred poses with a plaque she received from retired employee Carolyn Modarelli. Alfred is retiring from the bureau after 45 years of licensing industry service.
WOOSTER If you, your children, or your grandchildren have gotten a driver’s license or vehicle license plate in Wayne County in the past 45 years, chances are that Bonnie Alfred was involved.
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles office manager began her career in 1977 at Apple Creek Motors selling license plates before moving into the Value Center store — the current site of Rural King on Lincoln Way East in Wooster. Alfred set up shop at various locations around the county before settling in with the BMV and working for them for 33 years. She officially retired on March 25, according to a news release from Dan Starcher, public communications specialist for the Wayne County government.
“When I started in the 1970s, we only issued license plates, and there were locations in stores all around the county,” Alfred said in the news release. “Everybody had only two months out of the year to renew their plates. The rest of the year was for new or transfer (plates).”
Alfred experienced many changes over the years, and in 1980, she was notified that she would be issuing driver’s licenses in addition to selling vehicle plates.
“All of those remote locations were shut down, and we moved into Universal Sports in the former College Hills Plaza,” she said. “We went to computers at that time as well. We had huge cameras, and we had to learn how to develop pictures for the driver’s licenses. It was quite a change.”
Alfred weathered the many changes over the years, like moving into a digital format from analog, and she was always calm and understanding when customers got upset. However, on one occasion, a person armed with a baseball bat threatened to come over the counter at her. When Alfred replied, “you better not drop that bat on the way over,” the customer turned around and walked out.
While always being compassionate, professional, and understanding, nothing prepared Alfred for the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no other way to put it; I love this job and being around customers, but, since COVID, people just aren’t nice anymore,” she said. “I hear the same thing from other people in similar jobs. It is definitely the hardest thing that I have dealt with in 45 years.”
While the past couple of years has been rough, it doesn’t overshadow Alfred’s fond memories and friendships with co-workers and customers at the bureau — including her current boss and former high school classmate — Wayne County Auditor, and Deputy Registrar Jarra Underwood.
“I tried to calculate how many customers Bonnie waited on over the years,” Underwood said in the release. “But the number got too big for my calculator to handle.”
Underwood explained that her retirement would leave a void in the department. “She is instrumental, and this isn’t an easy job to do. She will be taking a lot of institutional knowledge along with her. I will miss her terribly,” she said.
Recently, Alfred was presented with a proclamation outlining her dedicated service to the county by Commissioners Ron Amstutz, Sue Smail, and Becky Foster during a regular Wayne County Commissioners session.
Alfred assures everyone that she won’t register her vehicle license plates online when she renews them; she will come in and take a number.
However, there is a chance she will be allowed to use the express lane.