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Register of Deeds Candidate Cassella, Out to Unseat Her Boss, Touts New Vision

September 24, 2018

Middlesex North Register of Deeds candidate Karen Casella speaks with The Sun's Editorial Board last week. She is challenging longtime Democratic Register Richard Howe Jr. Video at lowellsun.com. SUN / Rick Sobey Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- Karen Cassella is undaunted in her quest to upend the political establishment and her boss, who hails from a well-known city political family.

In a recent meeting with members of The Sun’s Editorial Board, Cassella stressed she’s confident despite the major uphill battle she faces this fall.

Cassella, 48, has worked at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds for more than 25 years and is challenging Democratic Register Richard Howe Jr. The junior document reception clerk is running as an unenrolled candidate.

Cassella, of Lowell, said she would bring a new vision to the office and make the registry experience more enjoyable for residents, she said.

“This is not easy,” she said about facing Howe, who has been the register of deeds since 1994. “But I have good ideas from being there for so long, and knowing what people want.”

Howe is seeking a fifth six-year term, and has not faced an opponent since he beat a field of Democratic primary candidates 24 years ago.

When asked about running against her boss, Cassella said she doesn’t look at the race that way.

“It’s the next step in my career,” she said. “I know every department and really enjoy it.

“I’m a people person,” Cassella added. “I love to talk, socialize and give people answers if I can.”

She also stressed that she wants to keep the office “positive and energized.”

She pointed out she would be the first woman register of deeds in the history of Middlesex North.

Lowell born and raised, Cassella went to Lowell High School. She lives in Belvidere with her husband, James, who’s a police officer in the city. Two of her brother-in-laws are firefighters.

She said it’s the right time in her life to run for register of deeds, with her four children older now.

Cassella has had the same title -- junior document reception clerk -- since she started because the positions have never been reclassified. She has worked in every department, and touts experience “across the board.”

“Not a lot of people know what the registrar does,” Cassella said. The registry of deeds is the holder of all real-estate records.

She said that education is a key part of her campaign, which will help residents who come into the office.

She would like to start up a lawyer-of-the-day program, during which people get real-estate advice from attorneys.

“Someone they can ask legal questions to, so they can make decisions from there,” Cassella said.

She also wants to implement a seminar, during which residents come in to the registry and learn how to navigate the office’s computer.

The registry is not open at night or on Saturday. She said weekend hours, or late hours, perhaps one day a week, would benefit the public.

The registry doesn’t accept debit or credit cards, which can be frustrating for some people, she said.

“We need to get to that,” Cassella said. “It’s the 21st century, and a lot of people want to be able to use their cards.”

The Middlesex North office used to have a Middlesex South satellite office. Cassella said it’d help residents if they re-launched that satellite office.

“It’d be an absolute asset to have that,” she said. “Instead of people from Townsend (classified in Middlesex South) driving all the way to Cambridge, they could come to Lowell. Everyone would love it.”

The 10 Middlesex North communities are: Lowell, Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Tyngsboro, Tewksbury, Wilmington, Westford, Carlisle and Dunstable.

Cassella said she’s been walking the neighborhoods, knocking on doors and waving signs in the community. She’s been meeting people as a part-time waitress at Al Fresca’s in Tewksbury.

“I’ll give customers my spiel if the time’s right,” she said.

Cassella is a member of a union at the registry of deeds. If she wasn’t in a union, would she be running?

“Absolutely,” she responded. “I want to do this to help the people.”

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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