For the majority of the time since then, the centers welcomed customers only on an appointment basis.
"Those that got (appointments) really loved them," said Anoka County License and Passport Centers Director John Lenarz. "Our demand surpassed (socially-distant) capacity."
The county also set up dropboxes outside its locations for customers to drop off registration for tab renewals. Both the appointments and the dropboxes will stay, even though walk-in business is once again welcomed.
"The appointment does help keep the staff in the matter that they know what transactions are coming to them," Lenarz said. He said if they're able to let customers who make appointments know ahead of time what materials they'll need to have with them, that also helps business flow more smoothly. He estimated that the License Centers are still seeing appointment customers about 30 percent of the time--because the appointments became two to three months backed up at the height of the pandemic and shutdowns.
"Phones went wild," he said. "We were getting in excess of 70,000 phone calls a month coming in. We're now down to 400-600 a day, which is still a lot but it's a little more manageable."
Lenarz said anything his staff can do on the front end to help those who need services be more prepared is essential, and they're glad to be able to help as many people as possible once again.
"We're here because we like to serve people," he said. "That's what our passion is."