Backlogs in indexing and imaging records at the Charleston County Registrar of Deeds office date all the way back to September 28, 2022, and they haven’t decreased in the past 13 days. That meant that Realtors, banks, and others who rely on county real estate paperwork were more than three months late.
When newly elected leader Karen Hollings took office on January 3, the office’s backlog had already been brought ahead to late October. The office has caught up to December 21 as of February 16th. “It was inexcusable and unacceptable,” Hollings said. “I’m moving the needle one day at a time with the hopes of restoring the integrity of the Charleston County Register of Deeds office.”
Records such as deeds, mortgages, powers of attorney, and liens are recorded in her office. Yet, for the past few years, many questioned whether or not the office was actually accomplishing anything.
An ‘Epic Mess’
When Hollings took over, the office was always under fire for failing to fulfill state standards, which was the subject of front-page headlines and legal threats. Real estate agents, lawyers, and other legal professionals frequently voiced their concerns to former registrar Michael Miller, who was elected in 2018. In the Democratic primary election last year, Hollings easily defeated Miller.
He went on to defeat Republican Bob McIntyre in the general election and gain the seat. A lawsuit demanding that the office be watched over was filed in late November of 2021. In December of 2021, another complaint was filed by a former employee who claimed she was sacked for criticizing the office’s output.
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In February 2022, a judge from the state’s Circuit Court demanded that Miller bring the office back on schedule, no matter how much extra time or effort it took. “I just don’t think my predecessor had the knowledge coming into this office … it was an epic mess,” Hollings said.
“There were 26 employees when he walked in the door, and over the course of a couple years, 21 of them had left. Most of them left out of frustration. There was no guidance — one day you’re doing this one way, and the next you’re being told to do it a completely different way that often didn’t make sense.”
Twenty people are now working at this office.
Hollings, on the other hand, claims to have a firm grasp on office protocol thanks to her 16 years of service there between 2005 and 2021.
“When you know what you’re doing, it’s not difficult at all,” she said. “I have 16 years of experience in this office, and I know how this office should run, because I’ve seen it run efficiently and effectively before.”
Herb Sass, chairman of the County Council in Charleston, has noticed a change for the better across the board. “There’s a huge difference there,” he said. “She’s making a tremendous difference. I’m really happy she’s in there, and she’s got everybody working in the right direction the way it’s supposed to be.”
Elevating the Team
Hollings’s hiring and promotion of reliable workers, as well as her establishment of a management team that has earned the respect of all staff members, are among the most significant alterations, according to the employee. These new managers were mostly elevated from within.
“Everyone in this office now has someone to go to, and they know when they hear the answer to a question, it’s the right answer,” She said. She claims that the new organizational setup has done wonders for team spirit.
“I witnessed on a frequent basis the morale of the office was very low, largely due to the fact there was no positive management in place,” Hollings said.
“Now, I hear from attorneys, paralegals and people off the street complimenting the office on being a better place to come into and do work.” Sass agreed.
“Morale just seems to be much higher when I go in there now than it was before,” he said. “I can’t explain it— it’s just a feeling you get when you talk to people. They’re happier.”
Attorney Colleen Condon, a former
The county council member doesn’t conduct much in the way of real estate transactions but has noticed a marked uptick in the quality of service provided by the county’s Registrar of Deeds office. “I only file a few documents a month,” she said.
“But I’m finding that they are getting filled immediately, which is how it should be. It’s not a problem, and it’s absolutely wonderful [Hollings] has been able to get caught up so quickly.”
All of the preceding statements are derived from the Charleston City Paper.
According to Hollings, not only does she intend to develop an effective computerized filing system to reduce the office’s future backlog, but she also has enormous plans for the office’s present and future. “I want this office to be as calm and productive as possible,” Hollings remarked.
“That won’t be a top story in the news. A front-page appearance is not expected. My goal is to have our office recognized as the best in the entire state. For many years, we set the bar, but now we’ve fallen. I will retrieve it.