FRYEBURG — While access and storage of vital land documents has changed over the years, customers walking through the Registry of Deeds Office have encountered one constant in the last four decades: Jean Watson.
Watson, of Brownfield, has been the Western District register for the past 32 years and is running unopposed for her ninth term as a Republican on Nov. 4.
“Back when I started, I thought this was easy — I’ll have it down in no time. But no, no, no. You have to stay on top of things; it’s always changing,” the 59-year old said.
Watson worked as an assistant in the deeds registry for four years before taking over the job in 1982.
Oxford County has an Eastern Division and a Western Division. Watson’s branch contains the land records for the towns of Stoneham, Stow, Sweden, Lovell, Fryeburg, Brownfield, Denmark, Porter and Hiram.
She doesn’t campaign other than to tell friends she’s running again.
“I don’t know if I’m as nervous as I used to be. I used to think, ‘What if I don’t make it?’ Now, I see it as, ‘I love my job, but, well that’s the way it’s suppose to be,'” she said.
Though required to run through a party, she said the position is straightforward and nonpartisan.
“I’m a caretaker for all those documents, looking after them after they’ve been recorded,” she said.
How those documents are recorded has changed over the years, with the majority now available online. Deeds and other property documents must be read for accuracy and compliance with state law, scanned, proofread and copied onto a computer file.
“There’s a lot that has to be done long after they’re recorded,” she said.
Recently, Watson and Oxford County Eastern District Register of Deeds Patricia Shearman set the groundwork for an entirely new computer system intended to streamline online access and save the county more than $23,000 a year.
Watson said she’s always enjoyed the job, a confluence of customer service, state rules and history.
“I learned as I went. I’m still learning. You never know it all,” she said.