Some personal news today: I have decided not to run for reelection as Northern Middlesex Register of Deeds next year and will retire when my current term ends on January 1, 2025. It has been a privilege to represent you as Register of Deeds, and I sincerely thank everyone who has supported me in my past elections.
The new Register of Deeds will be chosen in the November 5, 2024, election by the voters of the ten communities that make up the Northern District which are Billerica, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Westford, and Wilmington.
My path to becoming Register of Deeds began in April 1994 when incumbent Edward J. Early Jr. announced he would not see reelection in that year’s state election. I was practicing law with my father, Richard P. Howe, and sister, Martha E. Howe, but had long been interested in politics. Since the position of Register of Deeds involved three things I was passionate about – law, history, and technology – I decided to run. So did ten others.
The first hurdle was the Democratic Primary which featured nine candidates:
- Walter L. Flynn
- Richard P. Howe Jr.
- Edward J. Kennedy
- Patricia A. Kirwin Keilty
- Dennis McHugh
- Dennis Scannell
- David Shaughnessy
- Frederick L. Simon
- Karin Theodoros
The Primary was held on September 20, 1994, a sunny and warm early fall day. As for the results, I’ll quote from the next day’s Lowell Sun:
Howe Jr. claims Register victory
Theodoros not conceding in tight contest
Richard Howe Jr. claimed a hair’s-breadth victory early this morning in the nine-way Democratic primary election for the Northern Middlesex County Register of Deeds. Unofficial election results compiled today by The Sun from the 10 regional communities show Howe beating fellow Lowell lawyer Karin Theodoros by 52 votes, 4,621 to 4,569.
Theodoros, however, said her results showed her winning by two votes.
Results compiled at 11 p.m. by Howe’s camp showed him topping Theodoros by just eight votes, 4,557 to 4,549. Because of that margin, Howe’s victory celebration at his family’s downtown Lowell law office was muted, and the word “recount” filtered among the tired revelers.
There was a recount. In fact, there were 10 recounts since each city or town did their own. In the end, out of 29,309 votes cast, I won by 43.
With the Primary settled, I moved on to the general election in November, defeating Republican John L. Noonan of Billerica and Unenrolled candidate Patrick J. O’Connor of Lowell.
I took the oath of office on January 5, 1995, and have been serving as Register of Deeds ever since. My tenure has coincided with the information revolution that has transformed the world over the past 30 years, and I’ve taken full advantage of new technology to make the office more efficient and customer friendly. Here are some of the things I accomplished:
- Digitizing every document recorded from 1629 to the present which includes more than 14 million pages of records.
- Making all those records fully available on the registry website 24/7 at no cost to the user.
- Taking the lead on electronic document recording, a highly efficient process that now accounts for 85 percent of all recordings.
- Serving as the primary author of the statewide Massachusetts Deed Indexing Standards which have standardized the way data is entered in registry computer systems across the Commonwealth.
- Planning and executing the 2020 move of the Registry from its home of 165 years in the Middlesex Superior Courthouse to its new quarters in the Lowell Justice Center.
- Maintaining Registry operations without interruption throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Promoting the use of the Declaration of Homestead to protect the family home from creditors.
- Publicizing the Community Preservation Act and the benefits it brings to the communities that adopt it as Lowell did in 2019.
- Frequently lecturing to genealogy clubs, historical societies, students, and others on how to use Registry of Deeds records to conduct historical research.
My task over the next 14 months is to continue overseeing the office and to ensure a smooth transition for the new Register of Deeds, whomever that may be.
As for what I will do after that, I plan to do more Lowell Walks, both in person and virtual, and to continue writing about Lowell history and politics on my website, richardhowe.com.
Speaking of Lowell Walks, there is a new one planned for this coming Saturday, October 21, 2023, at 10 am. The Legends of Little Canada Walking Tour will begin at the Coalition for a Better Acre headquarters at 517 Moody Street, and will be led by Charlie Gargiulo, whose new memoir, Legends of Little Canada captures the experience of growing up in that neighborhood in the 1960s, and by UMass Lowell’s Bob Forrant who is the local authority on Urban Renewal and its impact on Lowell.
Legends of Little Canada Walking Tour
Saturday, October 21, 2023 at 10 am
Coalition for a Better Acre, 517 Moody Street, Lowell
On street parking is available throughout the neighborhood, especially on nearby Fr. Morissette Boulevard.
Please note the date of this tour has changed from that mentioned in last week’s newsletter. We discovered a conflict on the original date which was the following Saturday, October 28, 2023. On that day, the Pollard Memorial Library will host a Little Canada Walk led by Bill Walsh.