Shelby County Register of Deeds, Shelandra Ford was elected in August 2018 after winning two competitive elections. She is the first elected African-American and first female elected to this position. She holds a Bachelors of Science Degree in Management and Organizational Development from Bethel College. A novice in politics, she defeated a well-known county politician. Hard work and due diligence did not dissuade her from accepting the challenge and defeating her competition. As a proud Memphis native, Ms. Ford has previously served in various Shelby County government offices for over 20 years. She’s worked in the Health Department, Juvenile Court and General Sessions Criminal and Civil Divisions. Most recently, she worked in the Shelby County General Sessions Courts as a Principal Court Clerk.
Since taking office, Register Ford has reorganized the office to improve operational efficiencies. In so doing, she has eliminated unneeded contractual services; improved e-filing technology to better serve the real estate community; opened satellite locations at 157 Poplar Ave, Room 124 located (Downtown) and 1254 E. Shelby Drive in Southbrook Town Center; overseen increased revenues for Fiscal year 2019-2020 for $4,656,914.34 and fiscal year 2020-2021 for $5,866,516.20; and launched a new innovative Website and GIS Portal. Additionally, she adopted a free Fraud Protection program that alerts citizens to potential fraud involving their property. As Register, she has been a large part of the community and the issues it faces, hosting a Housing Crisis Forum to address Housing and Urban Development, conducting on-site training and presentations for Real Estate companies on navigating the website and assist with setting up Electronic Filing, and also implemented a Register of Deeds Community Awareness Outreach initiative to educate Shelby County Residents of the duties and services provided by the Register of Deeds Office.
During office she served as a member of the Shelby County Archives Committee and Shelby County Historical Commission. She is a former member and chair of the Public Records Commission and served as Secretary of the West Tennessee Register's Association. She was an active participant of the County Officials Association of Tennessee and a member of the Tennessee Association of Registers.
Tom Leatherwood served as the Shelby County Register of Deeds from November 2000 through August 2018. He won a special election in November 2000 to serve the remainder of the late Mr. Guy Bates’ term. Tom Leatherwood was born and raised in Shelby County. He and his wife Melissa have five daughters.
When Tom became Register, all records were on microfilm. He implemented a new recording system, digitized records, and made the information available on a free access website. The website now includes property records, aerial photos and genealogical data.
In 2005, Tom Leatherwood worked to pass legislation allowing the Register’s office to assume the responsibilities of Shelby County Public Records and Archives saving county tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars and making information more readily available. Since then, the office has made more public information accessible online, including Shelby County births, deaths, marriages, local documentaries, and exhibits of photographs and audio recordings. He also made the Tennessee State Vital Records databases of death, divorce and marriage records available. In 2006, Tom Leatherwood won the Society of Tennessee Archivists, Archival Advancement Award.
While state law sets most of our fees and charges, some are discretionary for the County. As Register, Tom Leatherwood has reduced these charges for services saving our customers tens of thousands of dollars.
Mr. Leatherwood served two terms in the State Senate from 1992 to November 2000. He was Vice Chairman of the Education Committee and Vice Chairman of the General Welfare Committee. Tom also served on the Finance Ways and Means Committee where he helped shape, balance and pass state budgets. Tennessee requires a balanced budget so members must be fiscally responsible, able to prioritize, and willing to just say no. After eight years, Tom Leatherwood kept his promise to only serve two terms and did not run again for the State Senate.
Tom earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the University of Memphis. After several years in the oil exploration industry, he fulfilled a life-long dream of world travel and spent fourteen months backpacking to approximately 25 countries. After this trip, Tom came back home with a great realization and appreciation of the many freedoms and blessings we enjoy in our nation. Tom then attained his teaching certificate from Middle Tennessee State University and taught in the Public Schools for eight years.
Tom Leatherwood implemented a new recording system, streamlined the office, cut expenses, and reduced customer fees. Effective management has allowed the office to run totally on fees at no cost to the taxpayer and to turn over excess revenue each year to help the county.
Joe Reves served as Shelby County Register from September 25, 2000 to November 20, 2000. Joe was appointed by the Shelby County Commission after the death of Mr. Guy B. Bates. He started his career with Shelby County Government in March 1971. He originally worked in the Shelby County Public Records Department, microfilming various county records including old real estate records from the Shelby County Register’s Office. In 1972 he came to work in the Register’s Office as a Deputy Register and in 1983 he was promoted to Assistant Chief Deputy. In 1986, Joe became Guy Bates’ Chief Administrative Officer upon the retirement of Tom Marbry. Mr. Reves currently serves as Chief Administrative Officer for Tom Leatherwood. He has overseen many improvements in the 30 years he has served in the Register’s Office. Joe’s depth of knowledge about the Register’s Office and the laws that govern the requirements for recordation make him an invaluable asset to customers.
Joe is married to Robbie and they have one son, Justin. Mr. Reves graduated from Overton High School in 1969 and attended Memphis State University. Mr. Reves was an active member of the Memphis Jaycees and served on the board of directors from 1978-1982. He was also a member of the Memphis Kiwanis for several years. Mr. Reves has volunteered his time to numerous organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the old St. Peter’s Orphanage, Home for the Incurables, West Tennessee Soccer Association, Special Olympics, Heart Association and Camp Discovery. Joe and Robbie attend Germantown Baptist Church and are currently members of Merton Avenue Baptist Church.
Guy Bates was County Register from July 3, 1961 to July 25, 2000. He was appointed by the old Shelby County Quarterly Court to finish the term of Francis Andrews, who had died. Mr. Bates had quite a political background beginning in the 1950’s during the era of former Memphis Mayor Edward H. “Boss” Crump. He served as city research director and administrative assistant for Mayor Watkins Overton in the 1950’s. Later Mr. Bates was appointed a collector of delinquent taxes working under Riley Garner, Trustee. He was elected Shelby County Register in 1962. He was re-elected nine times and served a total of 39 years. When Mr. Bates took office in 1961 there were 35 employees making hand written entries and they were six months behind.
He was very instrumental in automating the Register’s office. This allowed them to eliminate the backlog while keeping up with their daily work. Mr. Bates and Judge Kenneth Turner were very instrumental in pushing for the creation of Shelby County’s first data processing department. Mr. Bates was known for his frugality in the operations of his office and had articles published about him in the Commercial Appeal citing his close watch on the dollar.
Mr. Bates was a graduate of Columbia Military Academy and received a degree from Southwestern College, now known as Rhodes. He was a past Post Commander of American Legion #1, a World War II and Korean War veteran, Chairman of the Commercial Appeal’s Mile-of-Dimes for over 20 years and past member of the board of St. Jude Children’s Hospital.