How long should it take to send a recorded deed?

October 12, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The race for Anne Arundel Circuit Court clerk is not one of those campaigns that generates headlines because of the candidates' positions on issues such as abortion, gun control and the death penalty.

And that is fine with the people vying for the job: Republican Robert Duckworth, the deputy clerk from Crofton, and Democrat Janet S. Owens, a former Orphans Court judge from Millersville.

Both agree that competence is the main issue.

They differ on who is best qualified to oversee a $3.2 million budget and the 87 employees who handle 20,000 civil and criminal cases and record roughly 100,000 deeds, mortgages and other legal documents each year.

The Circuit Court clerk also supervises an operation that brings in $40 million each year in revenues, mostly in real estate transfer taxes.

"It is a big job, a lot of people don't realize that," Mr. Duckworth said.

Under state law, the salary will increase from $57,000 to $64,000 Jan. 1.

In the Sept. 13 primary, Mrs. Owens trounced her two opponents, receiving 71 percent of the vote.

L Mr. Duckworth got 64 percent of the Republican primary vote.

Mrs. Owens said her complaint is that the office is not being run as well as it could be.

For example, she said, it can take up to two months to receive a deed in the mail after it is recorded.

"Six to eight weeks is just not acceptable," she said. "There has to be better supervision of the staff."

But Mr. Duckworth, 54, argues that in the past three years he and the current clerk, Mary M. Rose, have reduced the time its takes to mail deeds after they've been recorded from six months to four weeks.

He said the process for recording deeds is no slower in Anne Arundel County than anywhere else.

"It's not a problem; in fact, it's one of our success areas," he insisted, adding that the timetable will improve again when the system is automated in the next few years.

He said that there is little wrong with the way the clerk's office is being run: "I'm proud of what we've accomplished here."

Mr. Duckworth was hired in 1991 by Mrs. Rose after she was elected clerk four years ago. Mrs. Rose is giving up the job of clerk to run for the state Senate.

"She hired me not because I was a good old boy, but because of my ability to manage staffs," he said.

Mr. Duckworth, a graduate of Catholic University, worked as an administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the 1970s and 1980s.

He served from 1986 to 1988 as president of the Crofton Civic Association, supervising the 10 municipal employees who provided services to the Crofton Taxing District. He also made two unsuccessful runs for Congress, in 1990 and in 1992.

Mr. Duckworth is married and has two children.

He said he and Mrs. Rose modernized an outdated system and put many of the records on a computer. If elected, he said, he wants to continue improving the computer system.

Mr. Duckworth said the biggest challenge in the job will be ensuring that the courthouse remain efficient and "friendly" during the next four years, while the building is being renovated and expanded.

Mrs. Owens, 50, is a graduate of George Washington University. She worked for former County Executive O. James Lighthizer as director of the county Housing Authority from November 1984 to October 1986 and as director of the county Department of Aging from November 1986 to May 1988. She is married and has two children.

She resigned in June as an Orphans Court judge, a two-day-a-week job, to run for the clerk's job because she said her children are old enough so that she felt she could return to full-time work.

"I loved being a judge, I really did," she said. "But I really miss being an administrator. I love working with budgets and with people."

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