SKOWHEGAN — Somerset County has a problem with its Registry of Deeds: It can’t hire anyone to run it.

The Registry of Deeds is an important part of county government. It’s the office that maintains records of land ownership, mortgages, water wells and more, and is one of the few departments in Somerset County’s government that produces revenue. It has been without a full-time leader for months.

It’s the register of deeds who oversees the office, and even as municipalities across Maine face a wave of hiring struggles, county administrators say the register has proven to be a uniquely difficult position to fill. The problem, county Commissioner John Alsop said, is that it’s an elected position and nobody in the county wants to run for it.

“Right now there is nobody in the position, and the electoral process has been problematic,” he said. “Nobody took out papers to run for the job.”

Somerset County voters will decide on Election Day whether they think the register should remain an elected position, or if the county commissioners should be able to hire and appoint someone to the role.

If voters decide to make it an appointed position, the county’s five commissioners can begin the hiring process Jan. 1. If voters reject the idea, then Somerset County will likely remain without a full-time register for at least a year or until someone decides to run for the office, county Administrator Tim Curtis said.


“The commissioners are not trying to force a person out,” he said. “The position is vacant. They need to be able to fill it as quickly as possible. If this passes, they’ll be able to do that within a few months.”

The question was added to the ballot in a unanimous vote by commissioners. If voters approve it, Somerset will become the fifth county in Maine to have a register of deeds who is appointed, not elected, Alsop said.

Although there is an emphasis on hiring locally, Commissioner Robert Sezak said the search to hire a new register would likely be a national one.

“We post on municipal association job websites, and we post on other websites that provide that type of venue,” Sezak said. “Those are screened by job seekers nationally. It will be, in its own way, a self-generated national search.”

The register is elected for a term of four years and receives an annual salary of approximately $50,000. Curtis said it’s been years since the county had a full-time register for longer than six months.

While no one filed paperwork to run for the position in last year’s election, outgoing Register Laura Price ran a successful write-in campaign after seeing that no one else ran for the position. Price retired six months into her term, leaving the position vacant once again.


Erica Rowe was chosen to succeed her in a municipal caucus, a process mandated by the county’s charter in which representatives from each of the county’s 25 towns select someone for the role. Rowe exited the post just a month after starting it.

The registry is currently run by Deputy Register Arlene Demo, who declined a request for comment.

Sezak said turnover within the position has been partly due to the sheer volume of documents the office handles. He said during tax season the department can process more than 300 documents a day. Alsop said registries across the state have seen increases in the amount of documents they handle as they have transitioned to accepting digital files.

“I think it’s a reflection of the fact that we have e-filings, that our economy has grown in the state of Maine, and that the number of real estate transactions to all registries have grown,” he said.

Curtis said the referendum was necessary for the county to function properly and find someone to fill the role.

“How many people would consider leaving their current employment to take a job that they may or may not get?” he said. “And if they get it, they have to run for election within a year, and they may not get that?”

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