Lora Freehling and Brandon Vance both want to educate people on the importance of the Berrien County Register of Deeds office.
“A lot of people don’t understand what the register of deeds is all about and how important it is to the economy,” said Lora Freehling of Stevensville, 53, who was named register of deeds after the death of Lori Jarvis in 2018.
She said having a complete chain of title on a piece of property is necessary so banks can give loans and properties can be bought and sold.
Brandon Vance, 33, of Buchanan is challenging her in the Aug. 4 Republican primary for the four-year register of deeds seat. There is no Democrat running for the position.
Vance, 33, said the register of deeds not only preserves land records dating back to the 1800s, but makes sure all new transactions are properly recorded.
“Every inch of dirt has a history,” he said.
Freehling said she would like to stay in the position to continue the work she has started.
She said she was holding workshops at area senior centers until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I do plan to continue (the workshops) once the restrictions are lifted,” she said. “I see a need for people understanding this information.”
She said the workshops can be hosted by any group, including at libraries.
Freehling said she is also working to set up a computer station in Niles so people can research land documents. She said there are currently four computer stations in St. Joseph.
Freehling and her husband, Mike Freehling, have two adult children. She graduated from Oakland University with a bachelor’s degree in public administration and public policy. Before being named the register of deeds, she worked for Berrien County Trial Court Judge Donna Howard.
She previously worked in the county’s treasurer’s office investigating principle residence exemptions.
Vance said that as a right of way agent at Michiana Land Services in St. Joseph, he understands how important land documents are.
“Properly recorded land records determine who owns what,” he said.
If elected, he said he wants to start an outreach program educating high school juniors and seniors about all of the career opportunities in real estate.
“One real estate transaction can involve 10 to 15 individuals,” he said.
He said the selling of property involves more than the real estate agent. He said other people who could be involved are mortgage brokers, appraisers, inspectors, underwriters, closers and title company processors, in addition to multiple managers.
“Those are a lot of jobs, some of which need college degrees,” he said. “These kids need to see what the real estate community has to offer.”
Vance graduated from Central Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in applied arts in entrepreneurship, with a minor in real estate development and finance and business administration. In addition, Vance said he takes courses every year to maintain his professional career as a notary, licensed real estate salesperson and certified right of way agent.
Vance said he has more than 10 years of experience in the real estate business, which includes working in land records, mortgage compliance, real estate training, and problem solving.
He also served for six years in the Michigan Army National Guard.
Vance lives with his girlfriend and her three children.