Kimberly S. Hargrove has been the official record keeper, marking the milestones of Harnett County residents to ensure they aren’t forgotten for 22 years. She’s worked in the Harnett County Register of Deeds Office for 34 years. But on Dec. 7, 2020 — when the next register of deeds is sworn into office — Hargrove’s watch will come to an end.
She’s leaving with a happy heart, she says, content in the decision to not seek reelection.
“I can leave feeling very satisfied,” Hargrove said. “I have decided to retire because I feel I have completed all my goals I had for the register of deeds office and feel it is running the best that it possibly can.”
She worries for the staff she’ll leave behind, though, if an outsider is elected and decides to make staffing changes.
“They need their jobs,” she said, adding some have worked there for decades. “I’m just praying all that works out. ... We are one big family in here.”
She’ll miss her staff the most and her interactions with the public, but a time for new adventures is on the horizon.
“I feel at this point in my life I owe it to myself to explore other opportunities and spend more time with family.”
That’s the main goal, she said. Spending more time with family and traveling are at the top of her list. She plans to stay active.
“I couldn’t just sit at home and not do anything,” she added. Hargrove isn’t wired that way.
She started at the register of deeds office her first summer after high school graduation.
“I ... came to the register of deeds office for a summer job and I was starting school in the fall,” Hargrove said. “It just turned out ... they wanted me to stay on so I started going to school at night and working during the day and I just never left.”
Next year will mark 35 years at the deeds office for Hargrove; for 22 of them, five consecutive terms, she has served as Harnett County’s register of deeds. She was appointed to the position in December 1997.
“I have been so honored and humbled to serve as register of deeds for Harnett County,” Hargrove said. “I am a big supporter of our county and plan to continue helping in our communities.”
Before serving as register of deeds, Hargrove served seven-and-a-half years as a deputy register of deeds, then five years as assistant register of deeds. A lot has changed during her tenure.
“When I started in the register of deeds office, it was all manual,” she said. “We had these big deed books that were on the counter and when people would come in to record documents, we would hand give it a book and a page with the page numbers and write out the granters and write out the grantees. When we were through with that, we kept the original document and then we had to make copies of it and put them in books and all that good stuff so it was a process.”
It’s different today.
“People walk up to the counter, they enter everything in on the computer, they scan it in and they hand them back the document,” she said.
Hargrove saw technology as a way to save time and money.
“One of the things I focused on when I became register was to try to use technology to make things faster and a little easier,” she said.
But the digital transformation involved a lot of work.
“We started scanning every book we had in the office. We got everything on our system so now people can sit at home in their pajamas or in their offices and pull up what we have here,” she said, with a grin. “It was very labor intensive, but it was all worth it in the end.”
The operation of the office is now a paperless system that provides the public with immediate access to the Harnett County records online. Hargrove has also allowed requests of records, real estate filings and questions to be submitted electronically with immediate response.
“In-person service is our first priority,” she said.
Hargrove also requires her staff to answer the phones, with no automated lines, be cross-trained to handle multiple departments and has staff readily available to serve the public who walk in the door.
“I’ve been very pleased with how everything has turned out with the technology we’re using,” she said. “We are electronically filing documents now so attorneys or banks can submit their documents electronically and it goes right into our system. My staff just pulls it up, views it to make sure it’s OK to record and they index them into the system right there.”
Hargrove says she has enjoyed every minute of her time at the deeds office.
“My heart is just full with feeling very pleased with the way everything has been, how everything has turned out to a point where I’m satisfied with the way things are operating, hence the reason why I’m like, ‘OK, well you’ve given 35 years now.’ I’m just feeling that it’s time for me to go ahead and move on,” she said.
One thing she says she won’t miss is the politics involved in elections, politics which can get nasty at times.
Hargrove faced challengers in four of her five elections, but each time she won the public’s support.
“I am a public servant and take pride in the service that we provide in our office as well as helping in our community,” she said. “I will be forever grateful for this opportunity and hope that our voters will continue to elect someone with the qualifications to serve in this position.”
During her tenure, Hargrove has served as:
She has also won numerous awards from the N.C. Association of Registers of Deeds, the Dunn-Erwin Rotary Club, the NAACP and the African American Caucus.
Emily Weaver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 910-230-2028.