Coffee County Register of Deeds Donna Toney has been named Outstanding Register of the Year for Middle Tennessee.
The award was presented by the Tennessee Registers Association last week at a conference of the County Officials Association of Tennessee in Nashville.
There are 38 counties in the Middle Tennessee division of the association, according to Toney.
“The Tennessee Registers Association is divided because the state is so wide,” she said. “So we have West, Middle and East Tennessee division, and the three divisions come under the umbrella of the Tennessee Registers Association.”
Above and beyond
The recipients of the award are registers who have shown exceptional performance.
“They are looking for a register that stands out and not just doing the job, but going above and beyond to take the office forward,” she said.
Supporting registers of other counties is also very important, she added.
“It’s all about making a difference for our organization,” Toney said.
Over the past year, Toney served as a president of the Middle Tennessee Register Association.
“I did work in that position for our association, and I also have been involved in a lot of automation for Coffee County,” she said.
Toney expressed gratitude to the organization for the recognition.
“I am very honored to be a register they felt stood out to these registers that have been in office for years and know much more than I do,” Toney said. “It’s a real honor to be in their circle and for them to choose me to be the outstanding register this year for Middle Tennessee. It’s a great honor and I cherish it.”
Knowing her efforts have made a positive impact makes her job satisfying, she said.
“We do all kinds of hard work and recognition, sometimes, is the best medicine for all that hard work,” she said.
The primary function of the register is to make and preserve a record of documents, such as deeds, powers of attorney, deeds of trust, mortgages, liens, contracts, plats, leases, judgments, wills, court orders and military discharges. These records provide public notice of property ownership, liens, contracts and other transactions that affect the public interest.
“The register’s main responsibility is maintaining all the legal documents that come through the door,” Toney said.
Since taking the register position in 2014, Toney has worked hard to make all records, which must be accessible to the public, available digitally.
“Everything was printed and in books up until April of 2016, and now, not only are the records from 2016 back available in books, but we now have them available digitally,” she said.
She hopes all records will be available digitally within a year.
“The whole world has evolved – whether you are in banking or real estate –automation is here in our world, so this industry had to conform to that, too,” Toney said.
Registers across the state have worked together to bring their offices into the future.
“There has been a lot of work with registers across the state to get paperless, to get digital, to get all the old records indexed and scanned,” she said. “I am on a mission this year, and I hope we have it done but this time next year.”
The office is still in the process of scanning papers.
“We have 143 older, large books that needed to be scanned,” Toney said. “We located the microfilm at the library and, with the library allowing me to check the microfilm out, we are taking it over to Rutherford County.”
The office in Rutherford County has provided essential support.
“They have the equipment and they are transferring the microfilm to digital,” Toney said. “When we get this done, every record that has been recorded in the Coffee County Register of Deeds office will be digitally available. We are very excited.”
With the number of records the local office has to process growing, efficiency is essential, she said.
“In 2014, we were at 28-30 average documents a day, now we are at 50,” she said.
Sometimes, the office has to process more than 80 documents a day.
Toney praised the department’s employees for their commitment.
“We are very grateful for this growth in the county,” she said. “The staff is very trained and experienced for their positions and, by doing the automation of paperless and digital, we are able to perform with just three full-time people.”
Elena Cawley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.