Five questions for Washington County Register of Deeds candidates

Robert Houk • Updated Apr 21, 2018 at 11:05 PM

Teresa Bowman faces Michael Hartman in the Republican Primary for Washington County register of deeds. With no other candidates appearing on the Aug. 2 general election ballot, the winner of the May 1 GOP contest will succeed incumbent Ginger Jilton, who is retiring after serving 20 years as register of deeds.

Bowman currently serves as bookkeeper in the register of deeds office, where she has worked for more than 25 years. Hartman is a local businessman and former chairman of the Washington County Republican Party.

1. What is it about your work experience or background that makes you think you are the best qualified to serve as Register of Deeds?

Bowman: “I have worked in the Register of Deeds office for over 15 years. I have first-hand experience of the day-to-day operations of the office. I began my career in 2002 as a clerk and I am currently the bookkeeper.

“I am proud to say working with the state auditors, we have had no audit findings. Prior to my career in the Register of Deeds office, I was a consumer loan officer at Leader Federal Bank.

“Working side-by-side with the current Register of Deeds Ginger Jilton, I have gained the knowledge to fully understand the internal workings in every area of the office. I understand the importance of maintaining a high standard of accuracy and safe keeping of the records.

“I am the only candidate with the experience of working in the office and in this office experience really does matter.”

Hartman: “I believe a combination of my business management degree from East Tennessee State University and my 17 years of business experience makes me well suited to be the next Register of Deeds. My three business partners and I have spent the last 17 years building and operating Hartman Properties, which consists of rental property, home remodeling and home building.

“These same three partners will operate the company if I’m elected. I will be a full-time, working register of deeds.

“My real estate background would be a natural fit to run the office with a seamless transition.”

2.What are the key duties of the register of deeds?

Bowman: “The primary function of the Register of Deeds office is to make and preserve a record of instruments required or allowed by law to be filed or recorded. The register provides public notice that affect the public interests. Some of the key duties of our office include recording, indexing, scanning and securing instruments.

“We also keep accurate records of fees, commissions and mortgage and transfer taxes collected. These are sent to the county Trustee and the state of Tennessee. “We also work closely with the county’s Archives Department. Our records go back to 1783 and preserving and maintaining these historical records are very important.

“We record over 100 different types of documents, all with different requirements. Our office works closely with financial institutions, attorneys and local businesses, as well as individuals.

Hartman: “The Register of Deeds office records nearly 100 different documents. Among these are warranty deeds, deeds of trust, releases, powers of attorney, liens, plats, amendments and DD214s, which are our veterans military discharge papers.

“The staff receives these various documents, makes sure they are true and correct, scans them in the computer and they are then filed/stored in case a legal copy of these documents are needed by the attorneys or the public.”

3. What would you improve about the register of deeds office, and how would you go about doing that?

Bowman: “Honestly, we have a great office. But, one thing I am very excited about is implementing a Veterans Honor Program called “Thank A Vet.” This program encourages veterans to register their DD214.

“They will receive a photo ID card, which will provide them with discounts at local businesses along with other benefits, at no cost to the veteran. I have spoken with our software company to have this program available to our veterans and ready to implement.

“Our office is known for already having the latest technology and equipment and I plan on keeping the most advanced recording system available. Our office collects a data processing fee that is kept in a reserve and can only be used for technology, supplies, software and equipment upgrades, among other related expenses.

“That fee enables us to purchase all these things at no cost to the taxpayer. This fee allows our office to keep a very low annual budget.

Hartman: “I will update the computer technology/software to safeguard our citizens most crucial information. Utilizing the latest technology will also be less expensive and allow for a savings in the budget, which I will return to the county and help keep property taxes lower.

“There will also be a social media policy set in place to make the office more efficient and productive. The salary and benefits of the Register of Deeds office is currently costing our community $488,800 per year, and the register should be held accountable for the level of productivity.”

4. Do you plan to make make staffing changes if elected to the office?

Bowman: “I have worked with the same full-time staff for many years. Last year alone, we recorded over 20,000 documents that all have different requirements and fees.

“They are the most educated, dedicated and efficient staff and each and every one has a passion for their job. There will absolutely be no change in the staff and I’m so grateful for having the entire staff’s support.”

Hartman: “I do not plan on any staffing changes. An office is only as good as it’s leader, therefore I want to redirect the focus of the office to make it more cost-effective, efficient and customer-focused.”

5. What is the most important thing you want the voters to know about you?

Bowman: “When elected I will be a working register, involved in the day-to-day workings of the office. With my experience, this will be an easy transition with no training necessary, which will save the taxpayers money.

“In this office there are many state statutes, regulations and requirements that must be followed. Without the experience and knowledge I have gained from working in the Register of Deeds office, it would take years to be properly trained for this position.

“I have assisted with the annual budget over the years and I pledge to be a good steward of the taxpayers money. My door will always be open. I need and ask for your vote in the May1 Republican Primary.”

Hartman: “Voters should know that I have a desire to serve my community and want us to have the best Register of Deeds office in Tennessee. I will be accountable to the community and conscientious about how we utilize their money.

“Elected officials should be even more careful with public money than their own, and that’s exactly how I plan to operate the Register of Deeds office.”

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