The mission of the Rutherford County Register of Deeds Office is to create a government operation that is effective, cost efficient, and customer friendly. We believe a customer-focused approach is the best way to achieve success, and success is never final.

Register of Deeds – Heather Dawbarn Elected Official


Heather Dawbarn was first elected in 2010 and has accomplished much in her first two terms. These accomplishments have brought efficiency, savings and security to the Rutherford County Register of Deeds. Upon taking office in 2010, Heather quickly realized the office had some serious security issues. There was no key policy in place. No one had any idea how many keys were available or where they were. September 1, 2010 Ms. Dawbarn had the locks changed and began further updating the security of the office.


Fixed a serious flaw in physical access security


The accounting system was outdated and completely manual with handwritten entries in a large leather-bound ledger. Working with a software vendor, Ms. Dawbarn created a digital accounting system and began electronic banking. Many procedures were updated which allows for more transparency and accountability.


Upgraded from pencil-and-paper accounting to state-of-the-art electronic accounting & banking


Reviewing staffing and job descriptions, Ms Dawbarn identified a continuity of operations risk that was unacceptable. Many of the day to day operations were delegated to a sole deputy with no one else having any knowledge to carry on if the delegated deputy were to become ill, retire or die. A robust cross training program was implemented. The former hierarchal system of management was gradually eliminated and replaced with a collaborative system of management. This system recognizes the worth of all and provides a depth of knowledge which will ensure continuity of operations in the Rutherford County Register of Deeds office for decades to come.


Cross-trained employees to cover jobs during unforeseen absences, and created a flatter, more collaborative work environment. These changes raised productivity, efficiency and employee moral.


This change in management led to a need to address fair compensation. Ms. Dawbarn created new job descriptions and a merit based pay system. Deputies of the office have all increased their knowledge to include the complete operations of the office and are being fairly compensated for their additional duties.


Heather serves on the Rutherford County Records Commission and noticed a practice of record keeping versus records management in the Register’s office. While studying state statutes and guidelines, she began implementing a strong records management program in the Register’s office and employing a Records Manager Analyst. It began with establishing a retention and disposition program which protected vital records and properly destroyed those records which had passed their retention date. By assessing their vulnerability and determining the impact of potential loss on the organization, Heather determined it was cost effective to utilize funds in a restricted electronic data processing fund and created a records management lab in office.


Ms. Dawbarn researched best practices of the Smithsonian and developed a plan. Working with Eastman Park Micrographics, the records management lab was designed to include the capability to rapidly digitize and microfilm vital records of the office. The Tennessee State Library and Archives recently toured and will be implementing the same in their new location. To date the Register’s office has been able to assist many other county offices included but not limited to: Chancery Court, Circuit Civil and General Court, Juvenile Court, County Clerk, Sheriff, Trustee, Property Assessor, Archives and Budget and Finance. Outside of Rutherford County Government, the Register’s office has been able to assist several smaller counties with records management and also the Rutherford County Historical Society. In a very conservative calculation this initiative has saved Rutherford County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in service cost, and an incalculable amount should the County suffer loss of records due to fire, storm, theft or threat.


In large part to Ms. Dawbarn’s willingness to share resources with other counties, she has been selected to serve in leadership roles within the regional and state associations. She has twice served the Middle Tennessee Register’s association as President and was elected the first Middle Tennessee Register of the Year in 2017. She is the President elect for the Tennessee Register’s Association and has been asked to serve on the board of the County Official Association of Tennessee. Heather works tirelessly on legislation which impacts consistency, accountability and transparency across the state.


Keeping up to date with changes in the real property business led to studying the potential benefits of offering electronic filing as another method of submitting business in the Rutherford County Register of Deeds office. New time deadlines were imposed with stiff penalties on the amount of time a submitter has to record a mortgage document. One way to improve time frames is to electronically file. If an error or omission prevents a document from recordation, it can be electronically returned within minutes and after correction be resubmitted on the same day. Currently about one third of the documents in the Rutherford County Register’s office are electronically filed. The office also began accepting credit cards for payment in office.


With natural attrition and cross training, the staffing levels have been responsibly reduced. The new staff levels are also adding the duties of records management and increased document recordings effectively doing more with less. All procedures have been fiscally reviewed for efficiency and accuracy. This has allowed budget line items to decrease and the revenue to increase. 2009 numbers for revenue were $1,312,902.44 (county general fund) and $ 5,992,802.27(state) with expenditures at $909,309.63 which left surplus for county general of $403,592.81. In 2015, revenue grew to $1,816,337.82(county general fund) and $12,622,67.40 (state) with expenditures at 974,000.72 leaving a surplus of $842,337.10 for county general. New numbers for 2016 will be updated on the Rutherford County website on the Register of Deeds page soon.


The Rutherford County Register of Deeds office has updated technology, managed fiscal responsibilities, improved access to records, reduced continuity of operations risk and increased security. These improvements have been documented in newly written internal controls by Ms. Dawbarn. Heather also created a written open records policy which has been shared and utilized by other office holders in the state. The most recent state audit showed there were no findings or recommendations for improvement for Rutherford County Register of Deeds.


Future projects are planned which will enhance the security of vital county records. One major goal is to develop a state of the art County Records Center. This would supplement the current Archives and create centralized, efficient, and secure storage for inactive and semi-active county governmental records. The County Records Center would offer agencies controlled access to their records until administrative, fiscal, and legal retention requirements are met.


Heather Dawbarn will be running for re-election as Rutherford County Register of Deeds in the Republican Primary in 2018. She is a member of the Rutherford County Republican Party, Rutherford County Republican Women, and an auxiliary member of the Rutherford County College Republicans. She formerly served two years as the lay Pastor of Community of Christ and holds the office of High Priest. Heather has served 7 years as the Youth Council Chair for a 3-state region coordinating dozens of Christian youth camps and training young adult staff. Ms. Dawbarn and her husband were founders of Citisolutions (a financial services company) in the UK for 3 years. Heather trained dozens of agents for licensure and was asked to be on the Citisolutions Board of Partners. With her husband Jake and partners, they were among the first to franchise Papa John’s Pizza in the Maryland area. Before taking office in 2010, Ms. Dawbarn worked for Attorney Larry Crain in Brentwood. She is married to Jake Robinson (32 years) and has two adult daughters and one granddaughter. Heather has a BS degree in Communication from the University of TN at Martin. Ms. Dawbarn currently resides in Rockvale and is restoring an historical schoolhouse as her home.