Serving the people

O’Connor leaves many memories
as Jefferson County Recorder

She was a two-term Treasurer
and two-term county recorder

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(January 2009) – By When Bob Clapp talks about his friend, retiring Jefferson County Recorder Mary Frances O’Connor, he can’t help holding back the compliments. And with her recent retirement, he strongly believes she is deserving of recognition for her successful campaigns and years of service as an elected official.
“When she runs for office she can’t be beat,” he says, simply.

Mary Frances O’Connor

Photo by Cristina Evans

Mary Frances O’Connor has spent
32 years as an elected official serving
the people of Jefferson County, Ind.

Clapp characterizes O’Connor as “a true public servant... It’s going to be hard to replace someone like her. ”
O’Connor, 78, of Madison, Ind., began serving as an elected official in 1977 in the position of Treasurer. “That was the beginning of a long, fruitful and enjoyable job,” she says. Her retirement comes after working for 32 years in the Jefferson County Courthouse, having been elected to two terms as Treasurer and two terms as Recorder.
“The voters have been very kind to me,” O’Connor says of her successful runs for office. Dec. 31 was her final day in office. Leigh Koehler was elected last November to replace her as Recorder.
The Recorder oversees an assortment of official records, including mortgages, deeds, military discharges and liens. In addition to these typical documents, sometimes more unusual items are brought in to be recorded.
O’Connor recalls that years ago, a gentleman had a lottery ticket recorded, just in case it turned out to to be a winner. Records in the office go back to 1811 and provide the town with much historical information.
During her years at the courthouse, O’Connor believes that the biggest change she has seen came in the use of technology. “In the olden days it was paper imported from England, a quill and a dip pen,” she says of the composition of records.
Typewriters came next, then everything moved to computers. This progression has benefits, but has come at a cost. “Computers are helpful, but if the system is down you can do nothing. When records are handwritten, you can keep going,” she notes.
O’Connor’s work in the courthouse has been something of a family affair. O’Connor’s daughter, Molly O’Connor, has served as First Deputy Recorder for the past eight years and previously worked with her mother in the Treasurer’s Office. Molly describes working with her mother as enjoyable, “But it didn’t inspire me to go into politics. Mom and Dad were the political junkies,” she says with a laugh. Her father, the late John Ready O’Connor, served two terms as Jefferson County Prosecutor.
O’Connor’s time in office has been defined by her desire and ability to help people. Molly O’Connor attributes much of her mother’s success to the fact that “no matter what party anyone was from, she helped people with what they needed.”
Marilyn Birge, Second Deputy Recorder, echoes this appraisal, saying O’Connor “tries to help anyone who comes in, she goes out of her way to help them.” Birge says that O’Connor has the knowledge needed to assist people who came into the office with questions, and if she did not know the answers herself, she knew where to find them.
Clapp agrees, saying, “She’s just there to help. You walk in that door, and she would smile at you.”
This dedication to the public is reflected in the advice O’Connor has for the next Recorder: “You are a public servant, so be as helpful as possible to everyone who comes through the door.”
Now that O’Connor is retiring, she hopes to have time to attend to some of the records of her own life. “I have neglected a lot of things at my house,” she says with a smile. She plans to “go through boxes of letters.”

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