Durham County Register of Deeds Questionnaire
Name as it appears on the ballot: Sharon A Davis
Campaign website: www.sharonforregisterofdeeds.com
Phone number: 919¬-257-¬7808
Years lived in Durham County: 28 years
1. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as Durham County’s register of deeds? (This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.)
I have worked in the office of the Register of Deeds since 1988. I have worked as deputy, work leader, supervisor, assistant, and I presently serve as the chief assistant Register of Deeds. As chief assistant, I serve in Mr. Covington’s stead in his absence. For 26 year, I have been involved in the planning and implementation of the office upgrade to the most up-to-date electronic technology for recording, archiving and retrieval of documents. I have advanced certification under the auspices of the North Carolina Association of Registers of Deeds (NCARD, the North Carolina professional organization for RODs) through attendance and training at workshops and conferences statewide. This training enhances my knowledge of the analytical tools needed to fulfill the decision-making managerial responsibilities of the office of the Register of Deeds. I currently serve on committees in the international professional organizations (International Association of Clerks Recorders Election Officials and Treasures-IACREOT) and have served on the state level (NCARD) as well. I have a Certificate in Public Leadership from George Washington University in cooperation with the IACREOT, with a focus on the core principles of public service. Throughout my tenure in the office of the Register of Deeds, I have benefitted from training and educational opportunities through daily work experience and exposure. I hold a Juris Doctor degree (North Carolina Central University, 1982), which I find invaluable in understanding and interpreting the statutes that govern the operation of the office. These experiences and training have given me confidence that I can effectively serve Durham County in managing the Office of Register of Deeds.
2. What sparked your interest in Durham County’s historical archives?
In college I majored in history (UNC‐CH) and had a work-study job in the History Library. While a law student at NCCU I held a job in the Law Library. Both of these jobs caused me to become interested in historical archives when professors, students and then attorneys searched for historical records that would be relevant to their work. In many ways, my current employment, working in the Register of Deeds office, is like working in a library when I have helped families search for their own historical records. When I opened the books holding recorded real estate and vital record documents, I was faced with the history of people and the community in which I work and live. Day-to-day interactions between customers who need help in retrieving copies of a document or the paralegal who searches the records can spark an interest in historical archives. Searching for documents is quite like putting together pieces of puzzles and requires knowledge of the history of the community in order to help complete citizen’s request at times. Dates are important when searching for early records. Knowing that Durham County was formed from parts of Wake County and Orange County helps to know where to look for where a document may be located. When someone called wanting a copy of the Geer Cemetery it is important to know that the information may be found in Orange County. On one occasion I was intrigued when I went to the marriage books and could not find the license that the customer wanted. At that time I did not know that the records were separated by race. I learned that early marriage records of white citizens were located in the front of the book and records for black citizens in the back. Then there was the day I pulled a document and found the restrictive covenants that stated ‘no person of color could purchase this property’. Working in the Deeds office, history was all around me. All of the above factors have sparked my interest in Durham County’s historical archives. And it is the mandate of this office to preserve and archive these documents and records for future generations.
3. In one word, how would you describe your current archival knowledge of Durham County?
4. If elected, you would be running an office that was led for nearly 30 years by Willie Covington. How would you assess his performance, and what have you learned from it that could guide you in the job?
I have had the good fortune and distinct pleasure of working with Mr. Covington during his 20 year tenure as Register of Deeds. He has been able to use his technical expertise to transform the office from a manual environment to one the most technologically advanced offices located in the state today. He has done a great job and I have benefitted greatly from working under his leadership as he brought the office into the 21st Century. As a member of the Automation Committee, when we were searching for software solutions, I met and interacted with technology vendors on site visits and in our office. I have served as an assistant project manager for the Conservation, Preservation and Digitization of the Vital Records project and I led the team that evaluated systems for the last software package installed. I have developed Requests for Proposal for various projects and my institutional knowledge was helpful in developing plans for the office. Under Mr. Covington’s leadership I have been able to hone my management and administrative skills. I have learned how to develop and monitor a budget and I have supervised employees who perform the day-to-day tasks in the office of the Register of Deeds. He has allowed me to hold membership in local and international professional organizations which has made it possible for me to meet and interact with others in the profession of the recording and retention of public documents, and keeps me abreast of the technology trends and innovations for our industry. Mr. Covington has prepared me immeasurably for the leadership role here in Durham County’s office of Register of Deeds.
5. In what ways would your election benefit the citizens of Durham County?
Continuity of operations and building on the success of Mr. Covington’s vision of growth, innovation and improvement of office operation are ways the citizens of Durham County would benefit from my election as Register of Deeds. I am aware of, and have been involved in the implementation of the projects that are currently being worked on, and I know in detail those things that also need to be updated for continued growth. I also know the statutes and laws that govern the office. I am, and I have been prepared to become the next Register, and if elected I can start on day one. Given my years of experience in the office of Register of Deeds, there will be no need for a period of orientation or introduction to office staff or procedures.
6. Do you think there’s any room in the register of deeds office for people expressing their social views by refusing to perform duties on “religious” grounds?
I do not believe that the personnel in the Register of Deeds office should project or manifest our social views by refusing to perform duties on “religious” grounds. Each deputized employee takes an oath swearing or affirming adherence to the Constitution and laws of the United States and the Constitution and laws of North Carolina. By taking the oath, we are obligated to perform the duties without interjecting our personal beliefs.
7. What new ideas do you bring to the table for streamlining the register of deeds office for maximum efficiency?
Further completion of an electronic index for all documents housed in the register of deeds collection would streamline searching the real estate indexes located in the register of deeds office. This would allow citizens to more easily utilize the system. I would also create a link from the records on the Tax Administration website directly into the Register of Deeds website. This would allow the public to search the records by address and selecting the link which gives the book and page number. Customers would then be able to view deeds directly from the Tax Administration website. I would also implement in the indexing module the ability to enter all cross references. This addition would give the public the ability to choose the related instrument and view the document from the same window. I would create an E-commerce unit that would be responsible for all electronic services, i.e. E-Recording and Request for Vital Records sent through our third party vendors. This is vital because I project that E-recording of real estate documents will increase by 25% over the next three years. With the use of E-recording increasing, it is important to focus on timely completion of documents submitted using this module to ensure greater efficiency and customer satisfaction. An increase in recording real estate documents electronically will result in a decrease in processing cost by reducing the cost of postage. All of the above would help in creating an office that is efficient, effective and responsive to the needs of the citizens of Durham County.