John Keith told members of Progressive West Roxbury/Roslindale this week that if he elected Suffolk County register of deeds, he would work to try to make the obscure position an appointed one.
Keith, an independent, is running against former Boston City Councilor Steve Murphy, a Democrat, and independents Margherita Ciampa-Coyne and Joe Donnelly in the Nov. 8 election.
"The office should be abolished," because it's purely an administrative position, Keith told the group. "The problem is, there's not a lot of responsibilities in this job."
The position has actually been vacant since Mickey Roache resigned in December.
Murphy, making a rare appearance at a candidate forum, opposed the idea of making the job appointed, because "voters lose the ability to have a say." He compared making the post appointed to Boston losing an elected school committee.
Ciampa-Coyne and Donnelly did not state an opinion on making the position appointed during their sessions with the group - in which each candidate spent five or so minutes alone with members, rather than sitting in a panel discussion together.
All four candidates said one of their first tasks if elected would be to do something about the registry's creaky Web site, which has not had an upgrade since the late 1990s. Keith said too much of the data is encapsulated in images of records, rather than in text, making it hard to extract comparative information from them.
On what makes them most qualified: Ciampa-Coyne said she has worked with land records and titles for some 25 years as a paralegal and has been an operations manager of a national title-insurance company, so she has experience managing a large group of workers..
Ciampa-Coyne said she would look to hire workers or even interns who speak languages other than English to serve the county's growing population of immigrants and would work to promote an e-mail system that notifies residents whenever somebody files something related to their property - a potential alert to possible fraud.
Donnelly has long worked as a real-estate broker and has also managed a large group of people. He added that after 40 years working on commission, "I'd like a nice steady paycheck."
Donnelly said he would want to learn from current registry workers, whom he said have a wealth of knowledge.
Murphy said he was the only candidate who has been a manager in the public sector. Murphy said he would try to establish office hours in public buildings across the county so that people would not have to go all the way downtown to do registry business and work on improving information sharing with city and state agencies that try to protect residents in foreclosures and against scams.
Like Donnelly, Keith is also a broker and has also managed groups of people. Keith said one of the reasons he is running is because he grew annoyed on learning how the register job across the state often seems to attract candidates who don't really want to work full time. He vowed he would be a full-time register - the other three candidates said the same.