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Register hopeful Kilpatrick touts paralegal experience

The run-off election between Kilpatrick, who also is a notary, and Delinquent Tax Collector Lee King is Tuesday, July 15. Early voting is at the Board of Elections office, 8:30-5 through Friday then to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 12. The Kilpatrick-King “Special K” run-off winner is unopposed in the general election, and takes office Dec. 1.

Nedra Moles is retiring after 20 years as Register of Deeds. Three candidates ran in the GOP primary May 6. None reached the 40 percent required to avoid a run-off. The top two advanced, with Shannon Baldwin eliminated. Neither he nor Moles have publicly endorsed either finalist. Finalists seek votes of Baldwin backers, and those who did not bother voting in the primary. The deeds race is the only one on the county-wide ballot July 15. It is in the spotlight, but there are not commissioner or other races to help draw voters.

On primary election night, Moles first felt disappointment in trailing King but then relief he missed 40 percent and a run-off would result. Relief was muted, until the vote count was certified later that week. “When I got that final result, there was a mixture of emotions,” Kilpatrick said. Now with a fresh restart, “I’m moving forward.”

Kilpatrick challenged Moles in the primary four years ago. Moles won. “I really want to get in there, and get the newer technology,” Kilpatrick said of then and now.

On average, she works 33 of her 35 hours per week for The Van Winkle Law Firm researching in the Register of Deeds office. She said “over the years, I have gained knowledge and hands-on experience in how that office works. I want to make it an awesome office.”

Specifically, “I’d like to see customer service more” such as workers directing customers more specifically on where to find deed books and other documents. “If you’re new to using that office, you don’t know your way around,” she said. “You see a massive amount of (large bound) books, and you feel lost. Also, people there are often stressed such as after having a death in the family. They’re trying to find deeds … It is a service-oriented office. A customer should be able to find what’s needed quickly.”

She suggests to “add another person” to a staff that has had five full-time and two part-time workers, but lost a couple staff slots amidst county budget constraints. “This office has been shorthanded. You want a balance, to do your job (basic tasks) but also offer customer service when people come in.”

An accompanying goal is “quicker, faster service,” she said. “There’s a good system. But we need to look at all (software) programs, offer the best technology which is user-friendly, and continually update it.” Another prime objective shared by candidates is quicker turnaround time for handling people’s original documents, such as by scanning them on the first visit so the customer can leave with them.

A consensus idea is to put more deeds online for public access, but not revealing Social Security numbers and other personal data from older documents. Currently, online data goes back a decade to October of 2005. Kilpatrick suggests adding earlier years in phases as the budget allows, and targeting a near-future backlog of 30 to 40 years. “It seems expensive,” she said. “I’d talk to other counties to see which are the best systems, and compare costs of using office personnel versus someone outside. You want to use your resources the best you can, and not spin wheels.”

Evona Kilpatrick has worked for Van Winkle for the past 28 years, mostly for attorney Michael M. Thompson. She reports her document findings to him, and he deals with clients. “I love the research and getting information, and putting the puzzle together,” she said. “You have to do it by the law. It’s very gratifying when you help someone.” All of her research is in real estate, her specialty. She also enjoys working directly with people, as a notary.

Kilpatrick realizes how the deeds office helps “people do genealogy” research of family history. She is intrigued by how deeds of decades ago defined a property by adjoining landmarks, rather than distances (“metes”) and more formal boundaries. “An old deed might say ‘running with the fence line, to the barn in the corner, then to the Smith line…’

Kilpatrick is an area native. She grew up in Saluda, in Polk County. She said her parents, C.D. and Willie Johnson, “encouraged me to work hard, to do a great job, and to discover where I could make a difference.” Hers was the first class from Saluda to advance to East Henderson High School, where she was graduated in 1977.

Her husband Van Kilpatrick is retired from machinery work at DuPont. His mother Dot Kilpatrick was a local assistant Register of Deeds. Van and Evona live in Laurel Park. They have been married 29 years. Their sons are Seth, 26, and Keith, who turns 23 on July 13.

She typically campaigns two to six hours a night, after work. “It’s like a second full-time job. But it’s a great pleasure meeting so many people, who you normally would not meet.”

She said workers around her “would describe me as a well-rounded person. I’m very detailed. But I also can see the future picture.” If elected, “I believe I will be a very good administrator. I believe in teamwork” and cross-trained staff filling in for one another as needed. That goes for her, too. “I’d never ask people to do anything that I wouldn’t do. You have administrative responsibility (as the register of deeds). But you can also get in there, and ‘pinch hit.’ Understanding the whole operation helps it run smoothly.”

For more, check www.kilpatrickfordeeds.com.

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