Political newcomer Barbara Ann Cole is challenging incumbent Robin Williams Carpenter for the Edgecombe County register of deeds office in the Democratic primary on May 8.
Cole, 56, is a retired customer service representative who has held a variety of jobs during her career. She said she decided to run for the register of deeds position because she has an interest in local government and experience in record management.
Carpenter, 45, has served in the Register of Deeds’ office for 21 years. She was first appointed register of deeds in 2007. In 2008, she was elected to remain in that position. Before that, Carpenter served as deputy register of deeds and assistant register of deeds.
Staff in the Edgecombe County Register of Deeds’ office maintain a variety of records, including birth, death, marriage and real estate records. They help attorneys, realtors, funeral homes, genealogists, land surveyors and the general public.
Cole said she is qualified for the job even though she has never worked in a register of deeds office.
Every job has a learning process, Cole said. She said she is prepared to manage the register of deeds office effectively and efficiently while maintaining a friendly attitude.
“I’m a quick learner,” Cole said.
Carpenter said it has been an honor and a privilege to serve residents of Edgecombe County, and she hopes to continue.
“I enjoy helping our citizens and being able to protect everyone’s family history and the integrity of the office,” Carpenter said.
During the past four years, Carpenter has worked to digitize records and update technology in the register of deeds office.
“I try to keep the office moving forward,” she said.
Carpenter implemented a new document retrieval system that allows people to access real estate records online.
She also has led efforts to digitize other records in-house, including birth, death and marriage records dating back at least 20 years.
Now when a customer comes to the register of deeds office, staff members don’t have to pull a book if the record has been digitized. They can simply print a copy, which reduces wait times for customers and wear and tear to the books, Carpenter said.
Customers don’t even have to come to the office if they’re seeking a real estate record dating back to September 1973 because those are available online.
If re-elected, Carpenter said she would continue her efforts to digitize records and move the register of deeds office into the 21st century.
Carpenter said she already has a firm understanding of the statutes, policies and procedures the register of deeds’ office must follow, so she wouldn’t have a learning curve.
Cole said some people have questioned why she would run for the position since she has never worked in the register of deeds office. She said her duties at several of her past jobs involving record management were similar to the duties performed in the register of deeds office.
Cole has 35 years of clerical, administrative and customer service experience. She handled veterans records, while processing applications for headstones and markers. She said she also handled records while working for the Federal Communications Commission.
Cole was born and raised in Tarboro. She moved away for a while to work and attend school, but she moved back in 1996 to help support her mom during a period of illness.
After retiring in 2011, Cole said she took an interest in local government. She is actively involved with the Edgecombe County Democratic Party and the African American Caucus.
Cole said she is personable, caring and open-minded.
“I’m a humble person with a humble background,” she said.