Friday August 31, 2012

On Thursday, Sept. 6, Democrats and unenrolled (independent) voters will have the opportunity to choose the next Register of Deeds for the Middle Berkshire District. The Middle District consists of the towns of Becket, Dalton, Hinsdale, Lee, Lenox, Otis, Pittsfield, Peru, Richmond, Stockbridge, Tyringham and Washington. Due to the recent media attention paid to the upcoming register of deeds election, voters are realizing the importance of the records contained in their Registry of Deeds.

The Registry of Deeds documents the history of our land records dating back to colonial times. The register of deeds position was created and the job description was referred to as "the keeper of the land records." The Colonists realized that acquiring land and establishing ownership [records] was crucial to their survival in our country. For the past 28 years I have made my career out of these very records. In fact, I am the only candidate who has had the experience of working in the Registry of Deeds.

I have been actively employed in the legal community for over 28 years. As a paralegal, and as a self-employed title examiner, I have searched land titles in several Registries of Deeds throughout the commonwealth. I was hired over 11 years ago by the well-respected 30-year veteran Register, Mary K. O'Brien. Since that time, I have progressed from a junior clerk to my current managerial position of assistant register. I have been instrumental in hiring most of the current staff, ensuring that they have the credentials necessary to adequately contribute to the mission of the Registry of Deeds: keeping our land records accurate and safe.

The register needs to possess good management skills that are specifically obtained in the Registry of Deeds. She must have the skills to manage a staff; however, it is imperative that she is also able to manage the documents that relate to the titles to our land. The register must be the most knowledgeable person in this office, for she has the final say as to the recordability of each and every document. It is vital that the register of deeds has the expertise required to protect land owners from unforeseen liens, encumbrances and title issues that can detrimentally affect the marketability of their homes and businesses.

I am the only candidate who has a working knowledge of all of the specific documents that cross the desk of the register. Throughout my years spent working in the Registry, I have formulated many innovative ideas about how to best use our budgeted funds from the commonwealth. My plan to use budgeted funds for the preservation of our current historical records is one of the projects I most look forward to accomplishing. My acquired knowledge of the existing computer system gives me the confidence that many of my ideas can come to fruition.

I promise that my full-time presence will not change, and I will continue to wholeheartedly serve the public in the capacity as register. I plan to make the Registry a more familiar place to the general public, especially to students who may enjoy a visit to a public office which holds such fascinating historical documents.

To finally put to rest the notion that the register of deeds is simply a management position, let me clarify. The statute provides that it is the register of deeds, not her staff, who needs to be the responsible person when it comes to recording, maintaining and preserving the records contained within the Registry of Deeds. It is the register of deeds, again, not her staff, who will be accountable when it comes to proving record ownership. Once sworn in as a register of deeds in Massachusetts, the register also becomes the assistant recorder for Land Court. Massachusetts Land Court is a unique court that deals with real property disputes. Also, when property is registered in Land Court the title is guaranteed by the commonwealth. Only an experienced and qualified person should be signing such documents that potentially expose the commonwealth.

After working alongside two registers in a mentor-protégé relationship, I feel confident that I have obtained the necessary knowledge and skills to become your next register of deeds. Sharing the positive attributes of two of my predecessors, along with my own, unique management style and work ethic, will ensure that the highest quality of public service continues to be delivered at the Middle Berkshire District Registry of Deeds.

I respectfully ask for your vote on Sept. 6.

Patsy Harris is a candidate for Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds.