The League of Women Voters of Brown County sent questionnaires to all candidates with opposition on the fall ballot in the following races: U.S. Congress District 9, State Senate District 44, State House District 65, Brown County Council at large, Brown County Commissioner Districts 1 and 3, Brown County Recorder and Brown County School Board. They 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.
NOTE: Brown County recorder candidates will debate Tuesday, Oct. 11. See the forum schedule here: http://www.bcdemocrat.com/2016/09/30/candidate_forum_schedule-2/
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Please describe the occupations, training and experience that qualify you for this office.
Rhonda Hardin Kelp (D): Being in the recorder’s office for 17 years is my occupation, training and experience that qualify me for the office. I love my job and serving the people of Brown County, and want to continue it as your next county recorder.
Judith “Judy” Swift (R): I have been employed by the health department for 27 years. One of my duties has been preserving birth and death records from 1882 to present along with septic records. Preserving/recording documents are the duties of the recorder. I am experienced at working within the GIS mapping system and locating records of septic systems through our records by using the GIS map and transfer histories. I enjoy helping clients with record searches. 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 trainings 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. I have been an office manager for 24 years.
What is the appropriate working relationship between this office and the auditor, clerk and surveyor’s offices and the commissioners?
Kelp: The appropriate working relationship between all offices is to set aside party affiliation and all work for the people of Brown County. Each of the offices has a part in the public’s real estate, whether it is recording, assessing, taxes, surveying or easements and the clerk’s office for judgments. We all are here to serve our Brown County.
Swift: Maintaining relationships goes well beyond being friendly and helpful, which I will continue to foster. The relationship to the auditor’s office is to provide a monetary collections report, so 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. Surveys are recorded, and part of the fee for recording a deed goes into a fund to help fund the surveyor position. The surveyor, auditor and assessor deal with land documents, and the final process is recording the documents for preservation. The recorder records ordinances and personnel policies for the commissioners as well as commissioner-acquired land. I will give the county council and commissioners an annual report of work being done in the office, number of clients helped and services provided with a breakdown of funds.
What do you see as the most important duties of your office?
Kelp: The most important duties of the recorder’s office are to preserve the historic and new records and to record the new records in a timely manner and index them correctly.
Swift: Preservation of records, recording documents so they are official records for our generation and future generations. Documents essential for land-based needs are recorded, as well as military discharges, ordinances, tax liens, certain bonds, cemetery deeds, assignments, restrictive covenants, etc. Having these records maintained, preserved and available for those needing and requesting them is essential.
What changes would you make in office operations?
Kelp: A change in operation would be to work with the assessor’s office and auditor’s office to make online recording of deeds available to mortgage companies, banks and title companies. We already have in place for companies to record all documents such as mortgages, releases, assignments, modifications and subordination of mortgages over the internet.
Swift: If elected recorder, I will be visible when you enter the door. I assure you will be greeted and treated professionally. Beyond that, 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 will assess the need for those wanting and needing to file documents for recording to possibly be done through web-based technologies that would allow for more timely recording and searches. It is essential to those needing documents recorded that it be done quickly and efficiently as well as those doing searches for documents. 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?
Kelp: In view of the historical value, the recorder’s office has had all the records in the office digitized and stored off site. In case of a catastrophe, the records can be made into books again. The records from July 1, 1988 to present are available to the public through a website called Doxpop.
Swift: It is my understanding that 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. I understand that digitizing of records is currently being done in the recorder’s office and I will continue that process. Doxpop is also an online resource to get information.
The county recorder maintains permanent public records of transactions involved in real estate, mining, personal property, mortgages, liens, leases, subdivision plats, military discharges, personal bonds, etc. The recorder is also a member of the county commission on public records, which has the authority over the preservation or disposition of all public records maintained by the county.