Longest-serving elected official in Boone County announces retirement

Thursday, February 6, 2014 | 9:56 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — After 35 years on the job, Bettie Johnson will not seek re-election as Boone County's recorder of deeds, she said in an email to colleagues Thursday.

Johnson, 70, began her first term Jan. 1, 1979, and ran unopposed for re-election nine times. She is currently the longest-serving elected official in Boone County.

"That's nicer to say than the oldest one," she said.

Her commitment to the people of Boone County guided her career, she said, and it was this commitment that makes it so difficult to retire.

The recorder maintains the official documents for things like real estate deeds, marriage licenses and other records. The office processes 30,000 to 50,000 documents a year, Johnson said.

Johnson's typical workday could involve helping anyone from attorneys to couples applying for marriage licenses to people tracing their genealogies.

During her tenure, Johnson has gone from filing deeds by hand to directing people to the county's mobile application.

Johnson helped the county transition from paper to electronic documents. Boone County was the first county in the state to record documents online and the first in the country to boast a mobile application for searching records, Johnson said.

Another initiative Johnson remembers proudly is the county employee retirement program established in 1994. Johnson was the program's first chairperson, and she said that experience let her see firsthand how the program helped county employees. 

The decision to run in 2010 wasn't easy, Johnson said. But her office's contribution to a case by Attorney General Chris Koster made her glad she stuck it out.

Back in 2011, Johnson had suspected some of the records in her office may have been forged. Her staff turned over hundreds of documents to Koster, and he was able to build a case against Lorraine Brown of DOCX, LLC.

Brown later pleaded guilty to forgery in November 2012 and was sentenced to five years in federal prison.

Johnson's term lasts until the end of 2014. People seeking her office can file for candidacy between Feb. 25 and March 25. Candidates will run in the Aug. 5 primary election, and the winners of the primary will run in the Nov. 4 general election.

Johnson said she's not sure what's next for her, but she knew it was the right time to turn to other things in her life.

Johnson will retire in Columbia, she said, "unless I can get my own island."

Supervising editor is Adam Aton.

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