By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
After serving Cannon Countians as their Register of Deeds for 28 years, Debbie Morris is ready for some “me time.”
Morris has actually served in the Register’s office for 38 years. She worked for Ray Nichols in the office for 10 years prior to throwing her name in the arena as a public servant.
Morris won her first election in 1986 and citizens have kept her in the Register’s office for almost three decades since. Morris successfully won six re-election campaigns.
She decided not to seek an eighth term four years ago.
“I decided it would be my last time to run for office,” said Morris of her 2010 bid for re-election. “It’s not that I was tired of the job. I just wanted some me time. I will miss the people of Cannon County. I want to thank them for electing me to this job. It has been a privilege and honor to serve. I consider myself fortunate because I have loved the job, and I love the people of Cannon County.”
The well-liked and always-friendly Morris is excited about retirement and spending more time with her granddaughter Courtney Davenport, a rising eighth-grader at Woodbury Grammar.
Morris put people first during her 28 years as Register of Deeds. Now she wants to put family on the front burner.
“Courtney is a teenager,” Morris said. “I hope she allows me to spend extra time with her now. I’m looking forward to those types of things.”
Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick worked with Morris 24 years during stints as County Executive and Clerk and Master. Patrick said Morris’ demeanor was always courteous and outgoing.
“Debbie Morris never got angry or mad at anyone and she treated everyone the same. That’s the characteristic of a good public servant,” Patrick said. “Debbie was good to work with, very cordial. She was good for the office. She had experience there having worked for Ray Nichols. She really knew a lot about the office when she assumed responsibility. I wish her well in retirement.”
Cannon County Executive Mike Gannon said she will be missed when her final term ends in September.
“I am sure the next Register of Deeds will be a good one, but they have some big shoes to fill,” Gannon said. “People are pretty good judges and they elected her seven times. Debbie and I always had a good-working relationship. She’s very pleasant to work with. I like her personally and so do her customers. I wish her the best in retirement.”
Putting customers first was Morris’ trademark. The outstanding quality never wavered throughout her tenure as Register of Deeds.
“I have strived to run a good office. I think my record speaks for itself,” Morris said. “When a person walks in that door, I don’t care if you are having a bad day, you speak to them and you are nice to them. The person walking through the door always comes first.”
The office of Register of Deeds records and files documents of writing affecting real property or personal property, subdivision plats, federal and state tax liens, and other instruments of writing. Cannon County’s records date back to 1836.
All recorded documents are available for public research. Advances in technology have changed the way the Register’s Office does business. Morris oversaw her office’s transition into the computer age in 1999.
“Everything is on computers and scanned,” Morris said. “Technology has changed some things. It has cut down on people coming into our office because they can search our records on the Internet if they subscribe to the service. We also have the records in our office. We have people come from out of state searching back to 1836. Our records are even scanned back to 1836.”
Morris said customers are amazed when they go into the records vault. They appreciate the manner in which old records have been preserved through the years.
While lawyers and title companies are regulars, independent searchers, genealogists and the general public also frequent the Register’s Office seeking information.
Morris said it is important to love the job, keep up with new technology and stay aware of advances not only with technology but also changes in state statutes.
Sandy Hollandsworth has served as Morris’ assistant the previous 15 years and helped oversee the transition into the computer age. Morris said their working relationship is something that will be missed.
“Sandy has been a great asset to this office and she has done a wonderful job for me,” Morris said. “I really appreciate it and our friendship. That is something I will miss.”
Hollandsworth said she started out as an employee in the office working for Morris 15 years ago. Throughout the process, she developed a friend for life.
“Debbie has been really good to me,” Hollandsworth said. “We started out talking about work and the next you think you know personal stuff oozes in. Since I have been here I have had two children get married; I have had three grandchildren born, one pass away; and Debbie has been really good to me the whole time.”
Hollandsworth said she admires many qualities about Morris but work ethic is one of the most prevalent.
“Debbie works hard and she has never taken anything for granted,” Hollandsworth said. “Every time I have been associated with her (in elections) she has never been totally confidant she would win. She’s always run like it was the first time she was running. She always felt like she had to earn it over and over again.”
Interestingly, Morris once told Nichols she would not run for public office. It was not something at the top of her agenda. Then, when Nichols retired Morris had two options – run for office or go home.
Had Morris decided not to run for Register of Deeds all those years ago citizens would have missed out on 28 years of effective record keeping and her smiling face welcoming them into her office.