Tuesday August 28, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Each of the three Democratic candidates in the race for Middle Berkshire District register of deeds vows, if elected, to be a full-time, hands-on register the next six years.

Scott Pignatelli, Patsy Harris and Jody L. Phillips promised at Monday night's debate to give the position their undivided attention.

However, the trio also highlighted the differences in experience they would bring to the $90,000-a-year job that represents Pittsfield and 11 surrounding towns.

Pignatelli, Harris and Phillips are battling for the Democratic party nomination in next week's state primary. Barring the emergence of a write-in candidate, the winner Sept. 6 has clear sailing through the November election as Republican and third-party opposition will be absent from the Nov. 6 ballot.

The three register hopefuls are seeking the next six-year term to succeed Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., who is running in the 1st Congressional District contest this fall.

During the 45-minute political forum at Berkshire Community College, the candidates explained how they will work closely with the registry employees. The seven-person staff, along with the register, are responsible for recording and maintaining the land documents in the Berkshire Middle District.

"I'm a player-coach," Pignatelli said. "If elected, I won't be hiding in the back office. I'll be up front."

Phillips noted she is also a team player.


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"I will lead by example and garner the trust of the employees and listen to them to find out what's needed in the office," said the former Pittsfield city clerk.

Currently an assistant register in the Berkshire Middle District, Harris pointed out she already has a close, working relationship with the registry workers.

"I will be showing the staff what's needed as I have been instrumental in hiring and training half the current staff," she said.

While Harris agrees with her opponents the register of deeds is a managerial, apolitical position, she contends her 11 years working in the Pittsfield-based office gives her the edge over Pignatelli and Phillips.

"I have complete knowledge of all the records at the registry and the register has to be the most knowledgeable in the office." said the Pittsfield native now living in Hinsdale.

As Pittsfield city clerk for 10 years, Phillips says she has the right combination of knowing how to oversee public records and manage as staff at the same time.

"Running for register of deeds made sense to me as I have the experience and skills to do the job," said the Pittsfield resident.

Pignatelli claims his qualifications trump those of Harris and Phillips, pointing to the 14 years he has owned and managed Pignatelli Electric.

"I have never denied the talents of my opponents," said the Lenox business man. "But good work ethic and ability don't translate into leadership skills."

The Berkshire Middle District registry in Pittsfield is one of three in Berkshire County, the other two are located in Great Barrington and Adams. In all, Mass achusetts has 21 registry districts 21 statewide, and the state Legislature is studying for possible consolidation.

The three candidates said the issue must be carefully considered before any plan is implemented.

"It's not a ‘cut-and-dry' answer as we don't know what the consolidation will look like," Phillips said. "Are we just saving two [register] salaries or will we have one register of deeds with three offices."

"We could probably have one registry with two satellite offices, but we need to look at the issue closely," Pignatelli added.

Harris says registry merger in the Berkshire would be challenging.

"We would have a lot of work to do as all three do things differently and it would take time to consolidate them," she said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.


What's next . . . 

  • The final candidate debate in the Democratic state primary race for Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds is Wednesday at radio station WBEC (AM 1420) in Pittsfield. The event will air live starting at 11 a.m. and be recorded for rebroadcast on WSBS (860 AM) in Great Barrington on Friday at 9 a.m.
  • The primary is Thursday, Sept. 6, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Only registered Democrats and unenrolled voters -- registered voters listed without a political party affiliation -- can vote in the Democratic primary.
  • The Berkshire Middle District registry represents Pittsfield, Becket, Dalton, Hinsdale, Lee, Lenox, Otis, Peru, Pittsfield, Richmond, Stockbridge, Tyringham and Washington.