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story.lead_photo.caption Judy Ridgeway poses for this Sept. 7, 2018, photo. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

She hasn't held public office, but Judy Ridgeway said her work experience will allow her to be an effective Cole County recorder of deeds.

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The former chief deputy recorder of deeds defeated the incumbent recorder of deeds, Ralph Bray, in Cole County's Republican primary election in August. Ridgeway will face Democrat Ted Stewart, who ran unopposed in the primary election, in the Nov. 6 general election. Bray will continue to serve as recorder until a new recorder is sworn into office in January.

The county recorder's office is responsible for recording public documents and preserving them for historical retrieval and legal review. This includes real estate records, marriage licenses, tax liens and discharge papers.

Prior to her departure from the office in February, Ridgeway performed numerous duties as chief deputy recorder, which included everything from training the office staff to recording documents in the proper order. She was there for 18 years.

"I don't know if there was one particular issue that won the race for me, but people who use the service know that I want to help them, I know the job, and they know that I'm experienced and will be a good leader," Ridgeway said. "The office handles multitudes of document types, and they require precise recordings. I also want to make sure we continue to protect irreplaceable historical records of our county. The recorder's office is responsible for recording and maintaining records for over a billion dollars' worth of real property."

Ridgeway sees the role of the recorder's office as helping to prevent residents from having to pay additional expenses or conflicts with their neighbors or family members.

"This is done by being knowledgeable and educated in the numerous types of deed transactions and helping residents with questions they may have along the process," she said.

Although there is online access to these records, Ridgeway said she wants to address security issues not just for users of the records, but to keep the integrity of the records themselves.

"Safeguarding confidential information such as Social Security numbers for the security of patrons remains a critical situation," she said. "A property record search in the recorder's office is not a simple internet search. Records and documents entrusted to the recorder, though public, still contain personal information that needs to be redacted before publication."

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