Tuesday January 8, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Middle Berkshire District Register of Deeds Patsy Harris hasn't wasted any time in her new position.

The Hinsdale resident was sworn into the job in Boston on Wednesday and has already made some changes in the office, she told The Eagle.

"Just moving people to different job titles and a couple of promotions, basically," Harris said. "Also, some of the job duties have been moved around -- certain things that have been done by other personnel have been moved."

Before winning the primary election in September and facing no challengers in the general election in November, Harris had 11 years with the registry including the last five as the assistant register of deeds.

The most noticeable difference between the two jobs, Harris said, is the level of responsibility.

"I am responsible for an extremely important operation and accepting the accountability that goes along with this position," Harris later added in a statement. "There is absolutely no room for errors in the Registry of Deeds."

Harris said one goal is to continue digitizing the office's documents so that, by July, any recorded document on or after July 1, 1963, would be viewable from a person's home or office. The current digital database only goes back to Dec. 1, 1971.

The new assistant register of deeds is Heidi Germanowski. She's held a few different positions throughout her 11 years in the registry, most recently as an archival specialist.

"Before, I was processing copies and recordings as well as making calls," Germanowski said. "Now I'm still doing recording, but I have administration functions, like our daily deposits and payroll."

"I deal with Boston a lot more often now," she added. "I never did that before in the other job."

F. Sydney Smithers, who's been a real estate attorney in the Berkshires for almost 42 years, went to Boston to see Harris be sworn in.

The principal reason Smithers said he supported her is that her registry experience would mean she could land on her feet "where others would have been new to that position, to that office," he said.

The "main goal" of the Registry of Deeds office, according to Harris, "is to record documents that attorneys are bringing to us in the most efficient manner that we can."

The registry maintains all of the land records and transactions for Pittsfield and the towns of Becket, Dalton, Hinsdale, Lee, Lenox, Otis, Peru, Richmond, Stockbridge, Tyringham and Washington.

When someone is sworn in as register of deeds in Massachusetts, they are also sworn in as an assistant record to the Land Court, a separate set of records within the registry. As the assistant recorder, Harris is also responsible for ensuring documents meet the strict recording standards set by the Land Court, she said.

Harris' term lasts six years. The job pays $90,000 annually.

To reach Adam Poulisse:
apoulisse@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6214.
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse