When Kent Brown was elected Register of Deeds in November 2020, he had an extensive spreadsheet of all of the traits that he was looking for in a Deputy. These included: leadership skills, industry experience and a willingness to learn. Shari Hicks, who was working in the County Clerk’s Office as the real estate coordinator, checked all of the boxes and more, he said.
“Shari’s positivity and enthusiastic attitude really made her stand out. She’s exactly the kind of energy I want to bring to this office.”
Hicks grew up in Vinland and graduated from Baldwin High School. She worked in the title industry for 11 years in the Kansas City area, where she helped people with the transfer of real estate from buyer to seller and close on mortgages. She also worked in accounting, banking, and in the office of a locally-owned heating, air-conditioning and plumbing business before it was sold.
She then began looking at jobs in local government. “I thought it would be a good way for me to be more involved in the community that I love,” Hicks said.
In 2016, she was hired on Leap Day by the County Clerk’s Office as a real estate clerk, where she maintained the ownership records for real estate property in the county. The records are used by the Appraiser’s Office for assessed property valuations and the Treasurer’s Office for property tax bills. In 2020, she was promoted to real estate coordinator where she worked more closely with the Appraiser’s Office and GIS Department in dividing parcels. She also helped her colleagues in the Elections Office as needed.
In January 2021, she was appointed by Brown as Deputy Register of Deeds. The Register of Deeds Office serves as a recording and information center for real estate located in Douglas County. It is the custodian and preserver of all records concerning the county’s 41,265 parcels of land, including deeds, mortgages, mortgage releases, beneficiary deeds, quitclaim deeds, maps, subdivision plats and other documents pertaining to real estate. The staff ensures that documents are recorded properly.
The Register of Deeds Office has a budget of approximately $638,000 and seven full-time employees. As Deputy, Hicks serves as a supervisor for the recording clerks, oversees daily operations and ensures recording decisions follow statutory regulations and office policies. She also assists Brown with policy decisions and strategic planning. She is included in every major decision so that she can run the office seamlessly in Brown’s absence.
Hicks said she enjoys her job because of Brown and her colleagues. “It is a well-run office. Everyone knows what is expected of them and knows the procedures. We work on things as a team and brainstorm ideas. It is a team effort and everyone does a really great job.”
In 2021, the Register of Deeds Office recorded 19,145 documents, a record. The previous record was 17,798 documents in 2020. In 2021, they recorded more than 4,000 deeds and brought in $1.7 million in revenues. Over time, the Register of Deeds Office has transferred more than $1.5 million to the countywide Equipment Reserve Fund for projects related to land records.
The Register of Deeds Office saw $9.5 billion in indebtedness last year with just under 6,000 mortgages and liens recorded.
Hicks said work flow can fluctuate with the real estate market. If interest rates are down, people tend to refinance. Spring and summer tend to be busier because more people buy and sell homes. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she said more people were filing transfer on death deeds to get their real estate affairs in order.
In the Register of Deeds Office, computer records go back to 1855 when Douglas County was established. Staff members are working to index items from the 1970s back to the 1800s so people can more easily search them. The Office also has written records that go back to 1917 and school records from 1898 to 1957.
Hicks said reading old documents from the 1800s is very interesting, but difficult because they are hand-written. Now, they electronically record the vast majority of documents. In 2021, the Register of Deeds Office electronically recorded 93% of all recordings. When Hicks worked in the title industry, she used to provide new home owners with a stack of papers. Now, that information is typically placed on a disk.
She said a misconception is that the Register of Deeds Office has the documents to fill out, but typically those are provided through a real estate attorney, a title company or the Kansas Bar Association.
Brown describes Hicks as an incredibly hard working and efficient employee who also makes time to build and nurture relationships. “Shari has many interests and causes about which she cares deeply. Once she puts her mind to something, she’s an unstoppable force.”
Hicks enjoys running, biking and kayaking. In 2011, she began running on area trails and by 2017, she ran her first 100-mile trail race in the Flint Hills and then ran it again the next year. In 2019, she ran her third 100-mile race in the Ozark Mountains. “I think it is fun to see how far you can push yourself,” she said.
She said it takes approximately 26 hours for her to complete 100 miles and typically finishes in the middle of the pack. When competing, she has friends who provide support along the route. They provide her with food, clothes, shoes, words of encouragement and even a toothbrush. “After going for like 12 hours, your mouth is really gross. So, I look forward to brushing my teeth around miles 50 to 60,” she said with laughter.
One of her biggest supporters has been longtime friend Rebecca Sudja, who works as the Re-entry Case Manager for the Sheriff’s Office. They both attended Baldwin High School and were on the cheerleading team together.
Sudja, who also is an ultra-runner, said they were roommates at cheer camp one summer. “Back then, I never would have imagined that we would still be hanging out, listening to music, running, riding bikes, kayaking and finding adventures around the Midwest. We’ve had some pretty great adventures.”
Hicks volunteers for the Lawrence Trail Hawks and leads a weekly group run of hill repeats. She also is a founding member and race co-director for the Night Hawk, a race that is ran in the dark and draws about 250 participants. Night Hawk has three distance options: 32 miles, 20 miles and 10 miles. This year’s race is scheduled for June 25 on the Clinton Lake trails.
Hicks said she runs year-around, but prefers winter. “I love running in the snow. I absolutely love it,” she said, enthusiastically.
Her least favorite season is summer, she said, because of the bugs, spider webs, ticks and excessive sweating. Her favorite running distances are 32 miles or 50 miles because they can be done in one day.
“You just get in the zone of listening to your breathing and foot fall. You listen to the birds and get to see all kinds of cool animals like Texas Longhorn cattle, buffalo and alpacas – fun stuff. It’s so nice to be out in nature and just decompress.”
She also volunteers at Prairie Paws Animal Shelter in Ottawa, where she said there is a need for volunteer and financial support. She typically spends a couple of hours there once or twice a week and loves playing and running with the dogs. She fell in love with one dog named Mags, and after two months, she adopted her. “She was really shy and nobody showed any interest in her,” Hicks said. “Now, she’s starting to let people pet her instead of cowering and trying to get away.”
Mags also has become a great running companion for Hicks. So far, their longest run together has been 7.5 miles. “She really seems to enjoy running with me because she gets excited when she sees me put on my running clothes.”
Sudja said Hicks is an inspiration to many. “Her laugh, enthusiasm, love and energy is always so positive. She just makes the world a better place.”
Hicks was selected to participate in this year’s Leadership Lawrence program through The Lawrence Chamber. She also is taking the Heartland Certified Public Manager program through the University of Kansas, which consists of classes twice a month through November.
“I don’t sit idle often,” she said. “I enjoy being active, helping others and serving the community where I grew up and have really grown to love.”