The League of Women Voters of Brown County sent questionnaires to all candidates who have opposition in the May 3 primary in the following races: U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress District 9, State Senate District 44, State House District 65, Brown County Council at-large, Brown County Commissioner District 3 and Brown County Recorder. The District 9 answers ran in the March 30 paper; the others will appear in the Brown County Democrat as space is available over the next few weeks. The League of Women Voters of Brown County — a nonpartisan organization — chose the questions. Answers appear in the candidates’ own words, though some were trimmed to fit available space. Candidates who do not have an opponent in the primary were not asked to complete a questionnaire yet; they will be asked before the November general election.
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Please describe the occupations, training and experience that qualify you for the office of recorder.
Vicki J. Harden: I have been an office manager at the Abe Martin Lodge for eight years doing human resources and accounting. I have to make sure that all payables and receivables are recorded when received and paid. When doing the banking I have to make sure all the deposits and payment are recorded and balanced correctly. I also have to make sure that all employees’ paperwork is filled our correctly and that the payroll is filled out, filed and recorded. I have 25-plus years of experience working with the public. I love helping customers and employees and making sure that they get the help they need.
Rhonda Hardin Kelp: For 17 years I have been employed in the recorder’s office. I attend the recorder’s conferences for information and training on new legislation and other training that may affect the recorder’s office and how it is run.
Larry L. Gardner: I believe this election is about serving our community, which I have been doing for over 20 years. I have served as chairman of the Jackson Township Advisory Board, deputy trustee of Jackson Township, vice president of the Economic Development Commission, on the Jackson Township Fire Department Board of Trustees, as Jackson 4 precinct committeeman for over 20 years, on the election board, as voting machine technician, with the Brown County Lions Club 14 years, as chairman of the fireworks committee, and am a former small business owner in Nashville with years of management experience.
Judith “Judy” Swift: I have been employed by the health department for 26 years. One of my duties has been preserving birth and death records from 1882 to present along with septic records. I have extensive experience with budgets and grants and the different funding areas within county government. I also served four years as a county council member. I have attended numerous human resource classes, public information officer training and seminars dealing with the public and employees. I have also completed the AIC Budget diploma program. I believe in giving great public service to the community and all the agencies I work with in county government.
What improvements or changes would you make in the recorder’s office?
Harden: I would make sure that all records, books and computer are up-to-date. I will always keep an open mind and listen to any suggestion anyone would like to give. I will make sure the doors are always open for the residents of Brown County.
Kelp: I would like to work on getting banks, mortgage companies and title agencies the ability to send in deeds through the software that is already in place for the recorder’s office for recording mortgages, releases and assignments.
Gardner: The previous recorder has run and organized the recorder’s office in a very efficient manner. I see no reason to make any changes at this time.
Swift: Once elected, I can fully assess the need for changes and streamlining procedures. If any changes are needed, it would be for the betterment of serving the community, and agencies needing services from the recorder’s office. The changes would be within the scope of all the legal codes governing the office. I believe in education and training for the staff and will encourage staff development.
In view of the historical value of the records in the recorder’s office, what resources are you aware of, or would you look into, to preserve and make these records available to the public?
Harden: Right now the deeds and surveys are recorded in books and on the computer. In the future it would be nice if we could be able to put it on microfilm to make it easier for the residents to search through.
Kelp: We are always looking for resources to preserve the land records for Brown County. We have all documents in digital form and stored off site. If something were to happen, such as a fire or flood, the land records could be made into books again and put back on the computer. Land records from July 1, 1988 to the present are available on the Internet for the public to search. A fee is charged by the software company that also covers the copy fees for the recorder’s office to be able to get your copies off the Internet, or you may visit the recorder’s office in person for all your recording and copy needs at $1 per page set by the state.
Gardner: All of the records in the recorder’s office are backed up on digital files; some call it by the old name of microfilm. They are sent to Texas to be stored. Because of the 1873 fire that destroyed all the records in the recorder’s office, all records are backed up every day and taken home overnight with the recorder for safekeeping. Since July 1, 1988, all the records are stored on computers and can be accessed by the public by going online at doxpop.com.
Swift: It is my understanding the preservation of records in the recorder’s office is dictated by Indiana code. The code requires records to be off site, climate controlled and photographic-imaged or microfilmed. With the development of new technologies, there are many storage solutions available today. However, Indiana codes have to be followed. I will adhere to what the code dictates for preservation and the availability of records to the agencies and persons needing the documents. Doxpop is also an online resource.
How do you view the duties of the recorder’s office in relationship to the auditor, clerk and surveyor’s offices?
Harden: The recorder’s office works closely with the surveyor’s office. The surveyor’s office records deeds, surveys and the plat and GIS maps. I have been studying on all the different responsibilities that the recorder’s office does. I have gone over to other counties and visited their recorder offices. I am so excited to learn everything about the recorder’s office and to help bring the office into the future to better provide for the residents of Brown County.
Kelp: I feel the duties of all the county offices are important. The duties of the recorder’s office are to preserve public records, including deeds, mortgages, liens, leases, articles of incorporation and amendments, Army and Navy discharges and many other documents.
Gardner: All the records are first run through the assessor’s office, then the auditor’s office and finally the recorder’s office. Once a month a report of all transfers is sent to the surveyor’s office to make changes on the plat.
Swift: Maintaining relationships with various offices goes well beyond being friendly and helpful, which I will continue to foster. The relationship to the auditor’s office is to provide monetary collections reports so the dollars received can be appropriated to the correct funds. Once deeds have been received from the auditor and assessor, the recorder records those documents. The clerk’s office receives state tax liens and judgments. Those documents are recorded in the recorder’s office. Also, the recorder’s bond is kept as a permanent record in the clerk’s office. Indiana Code also dictates that certain bonds are maintained by the auditor’s office. Part of the fee for recording a deed goes into the surveyor’s fund to help fund that job. The surveyor, auditor and assessor deal with “land” documents and the final process is recording the documents in the recorder’s office for preservation. Each office relies on the other. Providing the best service and resources is my ultimate goal.