Chesterton Tribune

 

 

County Recorder race pits Harris against Schaefer

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By KEVIN NEVERS

In the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Republican Chuck Harris and Democrat Lily M. Schaefer will vie for the open office of Porter County Recorder. The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to candidate questionnaires.

The Tribune set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) Age, place of residence, occupation.

Harris: 49; Valparaiso; Porter County Coroner and funeral director.

Schaefer: 65; Porter County; practicing attorney since 1979.

(2) Describe the Porter County Recorderís responsibilities (75 words).

Harris: The County Recorder records and maintains documents for mortgages, liens, leases, plats, military discharges, personal bonds, tax liens, and bankruptcy filings that are current, legible, and easily accessible. An important aspect of the Recorderís work is to index each document so it may be readily located. This allows for the persons searching land records to find the document necessary to establish a ďchain of titleĒ and ensure that any debts against the property are evident.

Schaefer: If in proper form, the Recorderís Office records all instruments/documents presented for recording. Such documents include, but are not limited to, deeds, mortgages, commercial and consumer UCC and UCCC filings, mechanicís liens, estate planning documents, estate documents, and developerís plats. The Recorder must establish procedures for public inspection and preservation of these documents, and prepare separate indexes for different types of documents. The Recorder must be familiar with the requirements of Indiana Code Title 36.

(3) For Harris: You are currently in your second and--under Indiana Code--final term of office as Porter County Coroner. That makes you one of three term-limited countywide office holders in this cycle seeking election to a different countywide office. Why are you seeking election to the Office of Recorder? (75 words) The Coronerís Office and the Recorderís Office are very similar. Both offices require impeccable record keeping, the organization of legal documents, and the ability to access and provide the documents accurately and in a timely fashion. Both offices require working with outside agencies and organizations to get the job done. Both positions require staff management and supervision, budget control, budget adjustments, and the desire to maximize taxpayersí dollars in conjunction with the County Council.

For Schaefer: Why are you seeking election to the Office of Recorder (75 words) I am seeking the office of Porter County Recorder because, after serving in private practice for 40 years (as of 2019), I recognize how frustrating it can be for non-lawyers to navigate public offices. It would be a pleasure for me to serve in a position where, should the need arise, I can explain legal requirements, the reasons for the requirements, and help streamline the recording process.

(4) For Harris: How does serving as Porter County Coroner specifically qualify you to serve as Recorder? (75 words) My experience as an elected office holder for eight years, balancing budgets in accordance with the County Council, and a sincere desire to improve the quality of my community. I spend a considerable amount of time fostering relationships with community organizations that add to the value of our county, and I am willing to put the time and effort to go above and beyond to ensure that Porter County is reaching its maximum potential.

For Schaefer: What skill sets do you possess which specifically qualify you to serve as Recorder? (75 words) I have been a solo practitioner; an associate and a partner at Burke, Costanza & Carberry; and ďof counselĒ at Genetos, Lane & Buitendorp. In these capacities, I have had ample experience in personnel and financial aspects of office management. As an attorney, I have the skills needed to understand the legal requisites for recording, and I have experience with the transition of record keeping from the filing of original paper documents to e-filing.

(5) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and indicate in particular why you believe yourself to be a better candidate? (100 words)

Harris: I have been a part of county government since 2003 and am dedicated to this community. I have worked with inner county entities such as police departments, Porter County Substance Abuse Council, and the United Way just to name a few. I have a proven history of being a budget hawk, and the ability to streamline and provide better service with less funding. I sit on several boards in Porter County that foster community participation and development.

Schaefer: Every elected office in Porter County requires a specific skill set. Qualifications for the different administrative offices are not interchangeable. I have the specific skills necessary to serve as Porter County Recorder. I have represented individuals, businesses, and government boards. For a combined 25 years, I served as zoning attorney for the City of Valparaiso and zoning and planning attorney for Porter County. The areas of my practice required familiarity with broad varieties of recorded documents. My legal background, combined with my business experience, makes me uniquely qualified to serve as Porter County Recorder.

(6) What are the key issues in this race? (150 words)

Harris: It is imperative that the County Recorder provides the general public, realtors, title companies, and lending institutions with the most updated recording and searching programs; be it in the office or online. We can make a critical leap forward in the delivery and expediency of the services we render to the people of Porter County. Our public is always investing in our county and in our communities. We owe it to them to make sure their recorded documents are secure, and that the information we preserve makes their title closings efficient, effortless, and welcoming.

Schaefer: The Porter County Recorder does not make policy decisions. The Recorder must implement the recording requirements set forth by state statute. However, certain political decisions do have an impact on the office. In the last four years, under the pretext of implementing e-recording, the fees charged by the Recorder, in almost every category, have increased dramatically. Examples include deeds from $16 to $25, mortgages from $11 to $55, mechanicís liens from $13 to $25. These increases came under an all-Republican administration, including the current Recorder who chairs the state Recorderís Association (which presumably approved or recommended the increases). For retirees, home-buyers, developers and small businesspeople, these substantially increased fees can be a hardship, especially when combined with all the other increases and new local taxes. These increases have been ďunder the radarĒ and are an issue that should be raised and addressed.

(7) If elected, what priorities would you pursue in the Recorderís Office? (100 words)

Harris: If elected, my first priority is to expand the Honor Rewards Program that Jon Miller created. The program records a veteranís discharge papers, free of charge, and then provides them with an HR card that grants them discounts to businesses in our community. I believe that we can secure many more businesses to provide discounts to our veterans. I will also strive to ensure that your experience with the Recorderís Office is unlike any you might have had or expected when dealing with a government agency; fast, friendly, efficient, and helpful.

Schaefer: As Porter County Recorder, I would pursue a reduction in the fees the Recorderís Office charges. I am not naive enough to presume that I can accomplish this single handedly, as that decision is made at another level. However, I will pursue how the increases were enacted, what the rationale was, and whether the increases benefited the dedicated and competent Recorderís Office staff. Because in my experience with administrative offices, there are often conflicts between different sections of statutes or regulations, my other priority is to use my legal knowledge to assist the staff and public in reconciling such conflicts.

 

 

Posted 10/4/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

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