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Anita López: A catalyst for change 
By Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent

Ask most people to tell you the functions of the Lucas County Recorder’s Office and you’re likely to get a blank stare in response.  But that is sure to change now that Anita López is on the scene.

Historically, the recorder’s office may have been among the least visible of county agencies and services, but its responsibilities and impact on the daily lives of citizens and taxpayers is immense.

Anita with husband, Roman

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“The most common transaction people have with this office occurs when someone is buying a home,” explains López.

“Before they get a closing, they go through a title company. That title company reviews all of the documents in the recorder’s office pertaining to that piece of property they are buying to see if there are any liens. If everything is fine, they get a clean title.

“My office keeps all those legal documents. And we receive more documents every day as paperwork is filed for mortgages. In effect, we are the keeper of the records, including original land plat books,” says López, the first Latina to hold the elected position.

She wants to make it clear that the recorder’s office quietly went about doing its job well every day under her predecessor, Sue Rioux, who chose to retire from the post. But those who have followed López’s career in public service know she is a catalyst for change.

Unlike those who believe in the old adage ‘If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,’ López sees challenges where others merely see the status quo. That’s why you can expect to see some significant changes during her watch. For starters, you can expect more online access, a greater public presence, and higher visibility.

“You will see the recorder’s office becoming more visible at more public events,” promises López.  

“We’ll be holding forums and educational sessions at senior centers and VFW and other veteran’s groups. We will be purchasing laptops to take to fairs where we can instantly provide a copy of a deed or a lien, and, by showing people how to use the system on line, let the public look up the status of their home,” said López.

Why veteran’s groups? That’s because the recorder’s office fulfills another function, which is not widely known to the general public. The office is also the repository for all military discharges if chosen by the veteran.

“We will be able to have a copy of a veteran’s military discharge printed and prepared before we attend the program.

“So many people in the city pay taxes that go to our office and do not know how to use our services, so we will be creating user-friendly brochures to explain who we are and what we do.  

“I’m excited about all the potential to make this office more community oriented, whether it be Bono or Waterville, Sylvania or the city of Toledo. We’re going to energize this department,” López says.

López has three main goals for the department that she wants to accomplish during her term. “The first is to update the technology and programs by taking the e-recorder on line and instituting e-filing over the next four years.  

The second is public education. Taxpayers should know what they are paying for and, third, is to establish coordinated services with all the government agencies we do business with as well as the elected officials,” she explains.

Already available on the office’s website are records going back to 1985. López is currently evaluating adding records from 1972 to 1985 on line.  “If that happens, then the majority of documents would be on line. Right now, it is a matter of cost,” she says.

López has already made some significant changes in the operation of the office. “I’ve established a Business Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from companies like Port Lawrence, Louisville Title, and other title companies that we work with every day. Despite the fact that they are our number one users, these companies have never been asked to sit down at the table and discuss long-range or short-term goals with us.

“This office will also be partnering with the Board of Realtors, the Chamber of Commerce, and other similar entities. I operate under an open door policy—for both my staff and the public,” says López.

“On a personal level, the best part of this job is that now I really get to see my children because I am finally working on a regular schedule,” López says.

She and her husband Roman (Ray) Arce—an attorney with Marshall & Melhorn, LLC law firm—have two sons, NAME three-and-a-half and  NAME who will be two on Valentine’s Day,

“Now that the campaign is over and with much less stress in my life, Ray can focus more upon his career. He has been very supportive this last year,” says López.

She says it is premature to talk about her future plans at the start of her four-year term.

“I have always told people I have been very blessed by God. I believe I have been empowered to help others, and that is my calling in life.”  

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López is pro Ford, Gerken, and Wozniak Skeldon

But it certainly doesn’t preclude López from playing an activist role in this November’s municipal elections.

“I served the city of Toledo in two positions, and Mayor [Jack] Ford was always very supportive of me. I had to deal with elected officials in order to forward minority empowerment, and Mayor Ford’s was the first administration that truly dealt with minority contracting issues.  

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“I know he has accomplished many things for which you have to give him credit. Supporting him this year for his reelection is number one on my agenda,” says López.

She is also pleased with what she sees as the potential for the future of Lucas County with Peter Gerken and Tina Wozniak Skeldon serving on the Board of Commissioners. “They are a dynamic duo; [Gerken and Skeldon] bring strong leadership to the table,” López says.

López acknowledges that she felt a high level of frustration while serving on the school board. She is particularly outspoken about fellow board member Larry Sykes and TPS superintendent Eugene Sanders.

“There weren’t any steps taken to make improvements, just steps to get good headlines.

Board members set policies and procedures, but they wore blinders. They concentrated upon day-to-day activities, often forgetting the children.

“I couldn’t do that as a board member, so I knew it was time for me to leave,” says López.

On the issue of a Latino not being represented on the board, López makes it clear that “I’m not against ethnicity, I‘m supporting the appointed one, Steven T. Thomas. 

“But I‘ve made it clear all along that we should not put all of our emphasis upon the appointment, but we should be looking to the November election when we will have three seats up. We should be using our new political status to get Latinos endorsed,” says López.

 

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