Politics & Government

2 Democrats want Meck’s register of deeds office

The incumbent

David Granberry, who is seeking his third four-year term and believes his experience sets him apart in the race.

The challenger

Fred Smith, a 20-year veteran of government service who says he can improve how the office operates.

About the office

The office is adjacent to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse and duties include recording and storing real estate and business-related documents, keeping files on military discharges and supplying certified copies of birth and death certificates. It also issues marriage licenses, which catapulted the register’s office into the public spotlight last year after the federal courts struck down North Carolina’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

About the candidates

Here’s more about the two. Their answers have been edited for brevity.

▪ David Granberry

Why he is running: To complete some initiatives that already are underway, including efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of older online records. “I never planned on becoming a register,” he says, “but somehow I ended up with a position that suits my interests and talents.”

Most important trait for a register: “You need the desire to serve, you must be extremely self-motivated to learn. You have to be fair, consistent and honest. Overall, you need to really understand the importance of the records. You have to know the laws that govern or affect the office, and you have to use judgment to make the best decision in those many instances where laws are not as clear.”

What has prepared him for the job: The 19 years he spent as a paralegal that sent him to register officers around the state. “My livelihood depended on efficient access to accurate records,” he says. His experience in legal research and real estate documents along with an interest in computers and technology also have been vital, he adds.

Should same-sex marriage be legal in North Carolina? Yes. “A group’s beliefs should not be imposed as restriction on those that do not share that belief. The government explicitly promotes monogamous relationships, and should not discriminate regarding a person’s choice of partner.”

Should you or other officeholders be able to refuse any part of your job that conflicts with your spiritual beliefs? No. Granberry says he and his staff take an oath to uphold the law and the Constitution. “Once you have one exception to your oath, what’s next?”

▪ Fred Smith

Why he is running: Smith says a passion for politics led him to volunteer for the campaigns of others. “At this point in time, I feel that I have something to bring to the community.” He says internal audits have identified areas in which the register’s office can be improved and he pledges to follow through on those fronts.

Most important trait for a register: Conscientiousness, Smith says. “The ability to manage this business honestly, effectively and efficiently, while complying with established local rules, laws, and policies requires a particular focus and attention to detail.”

What has prepared him for the job: Twenty years of varied public service – from an investigator with the public defender’s office to an adult probation/parole officer. “... I believe while certain duties can be learned, others, such as a profound commitment to the honest and dedicated service of people, must be inherent.”

Should same-sex marriage be legal in North Carolina? Yes.

Should you or other officeholders be able to refuse any part of your job that conflicts with your spiritual beliefs? No. “No person holding a public office should be able to refuse to do any aspect of their jobs because it conflicts with their beliefs,” Smith says. “In my opinion, the premise behind being a public officeholder is that you are committing to the representation and service of a community.”

Researcher Maria David contributed.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS

David Granberry

Age: 54

Family: Partner, Rosemarie Lam; daughter, Jasmine, a middle-school student; Natalie, an adult daughter in Portland, Ore.; stepson Austin, a UNC Greesboro student

Party: Democrat

Education: B.S., B.A., North Carolina Wesleyan in Rocky Mount

Political background: First elected to the office in 2008, re-elected in 2012

What are you reading? Just bought “The Brain, The Story of You” by David Eagleman, a companion book to the PBS series

Something you might not know: Granberry’s first job, at 14, was picking tobacco. He also has played guitar in rock bands and acoustic groups.

Fred Smith

Age: 50

Family: Single

Party: Democrat

Education: B.A. Political Science/Public Administration, Winston-Salem State

Political background: First run for office.

What are you reading? “God is in the Small Stuff…And It All Matters” by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz

Something you might not know: Smith helped set up policies and procedures for the Mecklenburg drug court, the first of its kind in North Carolina.