Name as it appears on the ballot: Tammy L. Brunner
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: tammybrunner.com
Occupation & employer: LEAD NC/Co-Director
Years lived in North Carolina: 32
1) Please tell us what in your record as a public official or private citizen demonstrates your ability to be an effective Register of Deeds? Please be specific.
I have worked in progressive politics for 20 years in Wake County. Most of that work has centered around efficiently managing people, programs, and offices. I have created safe, diverse and empowering work spaces where people can succeed and enjoy the work they are tasked with doing everyday.
The Register of Deeds office touches Wake County citizens during so many important life’s milestones. Applications for birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, and the process of home ownership all run through this office. As individuals in our community are experiencing these important occasions, the last thing they should be concerned with is a frustrating interaction with the Register of Deeds office mired in bureaucratic red tape.
I have talked with members of our community about our current Register of Deeds office. I’ve heard stories of unreturned phone calls and automated answering services that make it impossible to speak with an actual employee. I understand that residents of our county are having to wait a month or more to get a marriage license and that the office simply can’t keep up with the needs of residents. Timely and important questions have gone unanswered, we need to change that.
The Register of Deeds office needs more effective management. I have experience managing people in fast-paced, public facing environments. I will work to cut through bureaucratic red tape and change the culture of the Register of Deeds office to make it more customer service oriented and more accessible.
2) Describe the extent of your archival knowledge of Wake County’s public records system.
The Wake County Register of Deeds Office needs to be brought into the 21st century. Wake County’s public records system is woefully behind when it comes to what records are available electronically.
The digitization of slave records is just one example of how far behind the office currently is. Buncombe County, for example, began digitizing slave records as early as 2012. This is an easy step the Register of Deeds office can take to ensure ALL of Wake County’s citizens can accurately research and understand their lineage. There is a grant to provide resources to digitize these records but the current Register of Deeds simply has not taken action to pursue it. I will make it a priority.
Wake County should also offer electronic birth registration. Currently, this option is available in more than half the counties in North Carolina, yet Wake County doesn’t offer it. Wake County should be a leader in access and modernization of records.
In short, Wake County’s public record system is in critical need of modernization and I will work with the hard working employees, in the office, to make that a priority. I will work to ensure they have the resources that they need to get the job done, and get results.
3) What do you see as the three biggest challenges facing the Registrar’s office? How would you work to mitigate those challenges?
I believe that the three biggest challenges facing the Wake County Register of Deeds office are accessibility, modernization, and customer service. I have a plan to tackle each of these issues once I am elected.
To mitigate accessibility issues, office hours at the register of deeds office should be extended. I want to ensure an individual working a 9 to 5 job in Wendell has the same access to their Register of Deeds office as a lawyer who works in downtown Raleigh. The Register of Deeds office should open a satellite office and study opening a mobile service in order to create greater access to those living outside of the City of Raleigh. As previously mentioned, it is imperative that records, historical and otherwise, are digitized and maintained so that Wake County citizens can easily access important, accurate, and up-to-date information that the register of deeds office is supposed to provide.
The biggest hurdle facing the register of deeds office is the lack of a modernized approach in carrying out its responsibilities to the citizens of Wake County. Simply put, we have to modernize our records. The office should be proactively seeking state funding and federal grants to assist in this effort. In addition to digitizing pre-existing records, the office needs to create online applications so that when major events happen in people’s lives, they can easily acquire a birth certificate or death certificate. I want to focus on finding ways to bring more modern-day technology to the office and be sure the citizens of Wake County are served by an office that is actually operating in the 21st century.
Finally, I think the register of deeds office faces a lack of trust from the Wake County public due to the recent scandal the office endured, which has been compounded by the frustrating bureaucracy and inaccessibility many in our community have faced. We need to remember that this office serves the community during some of life’s most important moments. The office needs to regain a sense of community and integrity. I will never forget that I am in office to serve the people of Wake County, and I am dedicated to making it easier for citizens to have their questions answered by one of the many qualified employees of the department rather than having to continuously navigate an automated answering service.
I will get to work making these priorities a reality the minute I take office and start working to restore the public trust in the Office of the Register of Deeds.
4) In 2018, long-time Registrar Laura Riddick was found guilty of embezzling $2.3 million from the office. What safeguards would you implement to prevent the theft of taxpayer money?
Much of my background in progressive politics centered on campaign finance compliance work. I know the importance of knowing the law, following it, and putting in place sufficient checks and balances. This is even more important when the money you are operating with is taxpayer dollars. The office of the Register of Deeds needs to always ensure oversight and transparency are maintained.
Former Register of Deeds Laura Riddick embezzled cash from the office. We must ensure all taxpayer dollars flowing through the office are subject to a rigorous system of safeguards.
The County investigation into Laura Riddick found extremely poor cash management systems in the register of deeds office. Following the investigation, Wake County implemented cash management safeguards and additional audit and reporting requirements. These reforms have begun to repair the damage to the public trust, but the next Register of Deeds must provide vigilant, ethical oversight each day to continue to rebuild that trust. One person should never be allowed to be alone with the money, there must be systematic checks and safe gaurds in place that is followed to the letter every day.
I will work every single day to make sure that the system of checks and balances are in place, that the system is working and that everyone knows and is playing by the rules.
5) Do you believe the Registrar of Deeds office is operating at maximum efficiency? If not, what ideas do you have to make it more efficient?
We should always strive to do more to make government more efficient for the citizens it is elected to serve. I have heard from many individuals in our community about the current inefficiencies of the office and the barriers that exist to completing even the simplest of transactions. For example, I have heard from realtors who say it is quicker to go downtown to the office to file paperwork than it is to simply attempt to efile from their office. This is an obvious example of bad management at the highest levels of the office and inadequate use of resources. Again, my intentions to fix the office entail increasing accessibility, modernizing day to day operations, and creating a culture of customer service. I will, on day one, implement this plan as well as assess any further problems that exist and work to fix them.
6) Do you believe employees in the Register of Deeds office should be permitted to refuse to perform duties on religious grounds? If so, under what circumstances?
The Register of Deeds office exists to perform its duties in service to all citizens of the public with no exceptions. I do not believe that persons working in a public office have the right to make individual determinations about performing their duties because of personal beliefs.
7) Are there any other issues you would like to address that did not appear on this questionnaire?
Ultimately, the role of the Register of Deeds is to empower, train, and utilize staff to perform high quality services for every single person that uses the office. I want to use my experience to foster an environment that allows everyone working in the office to perform at his or her best and to make sure that every citizen in Wake County has easy access to public records maintained by the office. I have lived in this community for more than 30 years. I have dedicated my career to championing candidates and causes that amplify the issues that all North Carolinians face, not just those who have the biggest bank accounts. I decided it was time to step off the sidelines and put my name on the ballot because I truly believe I can create the change I long to see at the register of deeds office. The office needs to modernize and move forward into the 21st century, while also mirroring the diverse and progressive community that it serves. It would be my honor to represent my community as the Wake County Register of Deeds. I pledge that if I am elected I will go to work every day to represent each person, each municipality, and each zip code in Wake County to the fullest of my ability.
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