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VOL. 127 | NO. 13 | Friday, January 20, 2012

Reves Enjoys Public Contact As Register’s Office CAO

By Andy Meek

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Editor’s Note: This is a Daily News series featuring past winners of the Bobby Dunavant Public Service Awards, which annually honor one elected and one non-elected government official. The 2012 awards will be presented Feb. 22.


(Photo: Lance Murphey)

When Joe Reves, chief administrative officer for Shelby County Register Tom Leatherwood, says he’s “done it all” during his four decades with the register’s office, he means a little bit more than one might think.

During his time working for county government, he’s polished the spittoons that at one time were in the building. His boss’ office is a vital pit stop for public records in Shelby County, and since Tennessee is a “first to file” state, warring parties are racing to the same place – to the less-than-high-profile offices of Reves, his boss and their roughly two dozen employees.

Reves at times has to intervene in family disputes. Other times, he has to juggle without favor the paperwork from someone like an attorney racing to get a sale done and someone else trying to file a writ to stop it.

That contact with the public – with people from all walks of life – is what Reves says he loves about the job. It’s the kind of thing that also matters to those who bestow to people like Reves the Bobby Dunavant Public Service Award, presented annually by the late Probate Court clerk’s family and the Rotary Club of Memphis East.

The 2012 awards, sponsored by The Daily News and the University of Memphis, will be given at a Feb. 22 luncheon at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, 3700 Central Ave.

“A lot of my job is still dealing with personnel, but I have a lot of contact with the everyday customer,” said Reves, a past Dunavant Award recipient. “The moms and pops that come in with problems. The lawyers. The banks. The title companies. I still have a lot of hands-on contact with them. And some things are bumped up to me because of my experience handling different things.”

“I always remember what Clint Crabtree used to say. He was Circuit Court clerk at one time. He came up through the ranks like I did and Bobby Dunavant did. He’d say, ‘I’m not a politician. I’m a professional clerk.’ And that’s the way I like to look at it.”

– Joe Reves
Chief Administrative Officer, Shelby County Register’s office

Reves originally worked for the county in the public records department in the early 1970s. That work involved microfilming county records like old real estate documents from the register’s office. In 1972, he went to work for the register as deputy register. In 1983, he was promoted to assistant chief deputy.

Three years after that, Reves became former register Guy Bates’ chief administrative officer, the same position he holds today. And given that length of service, it’s no surprise he has helped oversee many improvements in the office.

“Dealing with the public, that’s the aspect I really like,” Reves said. “It’s always been a treat for me to deal with the public. I still learn something new every day.”

Reves is married to Robbie, and they have one son, Justin. Reves has served on the board of directors of the Memphis Jaycees and has volunteered his time to numerous groups and causes like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the old St. Peter’s Orphanage, West Tennessee Soccer Association, Special Olympics and more.

His philosophy about public service focuses on the job, not the politics.

“I always remember what Clint Crabtree used to say,” Reves said. “He was Circuit Court clerk at one time. He came up through the ranks like I did and Bobby Dunavant did. He’d say, ‘I’m not a politician. I’m a professional clerk.’ And that’s the way I like to look at it.”

MORTGAGES 54 374 1,120
BUILDING PERMITS 177 767 2,425