J. Lee Warren Jr. was a county commissioner for 11 years until he was unanimously elected May 13 by local Democratic Party leaders to become register of deeds. He resigned from the Board of Commissioners and was sworn to his new position May 28 at 7:45 a.m. He said he chose the odd time to avoid disrupting the office’s normal hours. He replaced George Tatum, who held the post from 1984 until Gov. Mike Easley selected him in April to run the state Division of Motor Vehicles. Warren, a Democrat, plans to run for election next year to keep his new job.
Warren has lived all of his life in Cumberland County. He graduated from Terry Sanford High School and Methodist College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English. He and his wife, Sue, run the Economy Foods convenience store on Cedar Creek Road. Warren used to sell real estate, but he has deactivated his license since becoming register of deeds. He said his wife, who is a licensed real-estate agent, has taken over his interest in a partnership known as Turner-Warren Real Estate.
As register of deeds, he oversees 19 employees and runs a county department that earned a profit of about $850,000 last fiscal year. The office has grown busier as more people have refinanced their mortgages or built homes with the low lending rates. Both actions require new land records. For example, employees are indexing about 350 land documents a day, compared with 150 a day just a few years ago, Warren said.
Warren recently spoke with staff writer Andrew Barksdale. Here are excerpts:
Q: Do you still get contacted by residents wanting to speak to their county commissioner?
A: I get calls just about every day.
Q: What do they want from you?
A: Rezoning issues, appointments to boards and commissions, things like that.
Q: What do you tell them?
A: I tell them that I thoroughly enjoyed serving as a county commissioner ... but I am no longer a county commissioner. They say, ‘We know, but we’ve always talked to you when we had problems.’
Q: Do you miss the Board of Commissioners?
A: I miss working with the board.
Q: What’s your day like?
A: I open the deed vault at 7 every morning. We don’t open the front door until 8. One of the first things that we did was make this change so that the deed vault area (which is open to the public) can be cleaned in the morning before we open. Vacuuming during the day, which is what used to happen, creates some confusion, and that sort of thing. My day ends when I lock the vault. I’m usually the last person to leave.
Q: What other changes have you made?
A: We have done some things in this department that will streamline the operations. They are not the most visible things, but we have in our vital records section added some computers to make that section operate more efficiently. Mr. Tatum had done an absolutely wonderful job since 1984, moving this whole department forward and getting it technologically advanced. It’s one of the model offices for the state of North Carolina. To further increase the efficiency here, we are adding more (computer) workstations in the deed vault area ... and expanding our ‘one-stop shop’ in our deed vault area so you can access almost all of your records, from taxes, to civil court and mapping.
Q: Will you ever seek another elected office besides register of deeds?
A: I don’t have any plans to do anything else other than to try to be of service to the citizens of Cumberland County in the register of deeds office.
Staff photo by Steve Hebert
Copyright 2004 The
Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer