Register of Deeds post lures new faces, old faces

The historically sleepy race for the plum Suffolk County Register of Deeds post has become the place to be for seasoned candidates and newcomers alike, with some Dorchester notables throwing their clipboards into the fray.

The register, who serves a six-year term at a salary of $124,000, oversees property transactions in Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop with an army of dedicated clerks. Francis “Mickey” Roache of Dorchester resigned as register last December after 13 years in office.

According to election officials, two former city councilors, Charles Yancey and Stephen Murphy, have pulled papers and indicated interest in the position. Both lost re-election bids in November and Yancey did not respond to request for comment. (Editor's note April 1: Due to a reporting error, Stephen Murphy was not contacted for this article. The Reporter incorrectly reported that the newspaper had tried to contact Murphy in an earlier version of this article. We regret the error.)

If the two long-time politicians decide to run, they will be joined in the race by a number of others who have pulled papers and set out to get the 1,000 signatures needed to secure a spot on the ballot.

The suddenly popular office has been on Paul Nutting’s radar for some time. A Savin Hill civic leader and frequent face at public meetings across the neighborhood, Nutting said his 20 years of computerized land records management experience specifically qualify him for the land- and data-intense position.

“Innovation in providing mapped and textual information has been the focus of my career,” Nutting said in his campaign announcement. He and a small team recently assembled assessors records from the state’s 351 cities and towns into a single online viewer.

“I go to work every day at 6:30 in the morning. I can’t not work,” he said. “I’m going to present myself to the secretary of state as someone who can assist him with all matters of IT and innovation,” he said Monday night.

Lower Mills resident and attorney Stephanie Everett said she hopes to bring her legal housing expertise to the register’s office. “There needs to be some educational component,” she said. “[The position needs] people who really understand the struggles of homeownership.”

A former aide to state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain), Everett has tried her hand at elected office in the past; she ran for the District 3 city council seat now occupied by Frank Baker and for the 12th Suffolk House seat won by Dan Cullinane.

“There’s no secret that I’ve had some unsuccessful races,” Everett told the Reporter over the phone on Tuesday. “The big difference in those is time. I got to cultivate myself a lot more and my campaign strategy,” she said. “I’m a public servant at heart. There is something to making sure that people’s lives are affected.”

Douglas Bennett, who lives in Dorchester’s Pope’s Hill section, is also seeking the office. A realtor working out of West Roxbury, he has mounted several unsuccessful campaigns in recent years, most recently for sheriff in Suffolk County against Steve Tompkins. In an email to the Reporter, Bennett said he turned in 1,380 certified signatures to the secretary of state’s office on March 15.

The registry needs an additional $500,000 annually for new equipment or manpower to streamline the records process, Bennett said. A primary goal of his would be “to make sure that all real estate documents prior to 1973 are properly indexed so that they are easily accessible to the public via the internet.” He said he finds the process for acquiring pre-1973 information to be an undue burden on the public.

As to the race, new hats are being thrown into the ring with some regularity. The latest entrant: Roslindale lawyer and first-time candidate Katie Forde.