Democratic incumbent Mark Chilton will serve a third term as Orange County Register of Deeds after defeating challenger Penny Rich in Tuesday's election, based on unofficial results.
Because there are no Republicans running for office, Chilton's term will be renewed in November for the next four years.
Chilton finished with 15,985 votes in the county, winning 64.41 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Rich finished with 8,831 votes, 35.59 percent.
“It was very exciting to win – and to win so decisively is icing on the cake,” Chilton said.
Chilton became the youngest official elected to public office when he served on the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1991. He served as the mayor of Carrboro from 2005 to 2013. Chilton has been the Orange County Register of Deeds since 2014.
Over the course of his time in office, Chilton has worked to simplify small business name filings and promote women leaders on staff.
Chilton said that he will continue to streamline the work done by the register of deeds office by digitizing more processes.
“We're also going to be moving forward with receiving birth and death records from the health department by electronic transmission instead of as it's currently done by paper, which will speed up the process and just make it more convenient for the public in general,” Chilton said.
Chilton said that despite frequent appearances in historical records, women and people of color tend to be left out of history books. According to his campaign website, Chilton will continue to work to digitize records of slavery and documents online to make them available for public access.
“In order to try and rectify that, I've been working on making those records more accessible, more available, so that we can better know the story of sexual and racial oppression in the history of Orange County," he said.
Two of Chilton’s coworkers, Assistant Register of Deeds Amy McLamb and Project Coordinator James Bartow, expressed their gratitude for Chilton’s work over the years.
McLamb said that under Chilton’s leadership, she and three other women in the office have received important promotions. Having worked in the office for 23 years, she said the past eight years with Chilton have been the best.
Bartow said that Chilton’s efforts to digitize records of slavery comes from a desire to help Black genealogists who are faced with “a black hole of lack of information” from before the Civil War.
“He really wanted to just take everything we have, and put it out there and have it be searchable because I think oftentimes this stuff sort of is hidden,” Bartow said. “And it really shouldn't be.”
Rich has also had an extensive background in Orange County service and politics since she moved to Chapel Hill in 1998. She has served on the OWASA Board of Directors, Chapel Hill Town Council and the Orange County Board of Commissioners.
However, Rich says that she may not return to local politics after this race.
“I've had a really good run, I've had over 20 years experience in local government and enjoyed every single bit of it, but my expertise can be put to use in other places and I think I'm going to focus on that," she said.
Rich ran on a platform to continue Chilton’s efforts to digitize slave deeds as well as raise the minimum age of marriage and record land associated with the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
Rich said she wanted to thank everyone who voted for her and expressed interest in her platform.
"A lot of people reached out throughout the whole couple of months, which was really kind of neat," she said. "People don't ever think about this office because it's, I have to say, it's the least sexy elected position in any county.”
UNC senior and field manager of Rich’s campaign Simon Palmore said that he was grateful to the voters, proud of the effort of the campaign team and the awareness it brought to the position.
“I'm grateful for Mark Chilton’s years of service to our community, and I wish him the very best in his third term,” Palmore said.
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