Centre County Register of Wills Kim Barton to retire after almost 4 decades in office

Centre County Register of Wills Kim Barton plans to retire at the end of her term. She is retiring from the register’s office after 37 years.
Centre County Register of Wills Kim Barton plans to retire at the end of her term. She is retiring from the register’s office after 37 years. CDT photo

Few can say they have spent their entire adult lives at a single job, working in the same office for the entirety of their career.

Register of Wills Kim Barton is one of the few.

Barton, 54, announced recently that she would not be seeking another term as register. She is retiring from the register’s office after 37 years of service to Centre County.

“After significant discussion with my family during the holidays and according to the advice of my neurologist, I ... am retiring at the end of my second four year term,” she said in a news release.

Speaking in her office at the Willowbank Building, Barton said she started working at the register’s office right out of high school as a marriage license clerk. She worked her way up to second deputy register, then deputy register.

When register Roger Bierly fell ill in 2005, she was appointed as acting register until his term ended. She went on to win elections in 2007 and 2011.

Barton tells people she grew up in the office, saying it’s been a lifetime.

“The whole thing has been a learning experience,” she said. “There’s not many days go by that you don’t learn something new, even at this point.”

She said the years of probating wills and collecting inheritance taxes haven’t brought too many changes. Seventeen years ago, the register’s office moved from the Centre County Courthouse to the Willowbank Building, offering them more space. And last year’s approval of same-sex marriage in the state shook things up a bit as well.

Barton said she plans to take care of herself and spend time with her family once her term ends. She said it saddens her to retire prematurely, but she feared she couldn’t give the same level of service to the public.

After suffering two strokes, she said she wanted to honor the wishes of her family and the advice of her neurologist and not seek another term.

The elections and the political side of the office have been the challenging part of her work, she said, and helped drive her decision not to run.

“If you want to get elected, you try to go to as many dinners and public functions as you can,” she said. “You pretty much put your family on hold.

“I won’t be missing that part.”

But she did say she will be missing the people, serving the county, and her support staff.

Barton thanked her staff — chief deputy Christine Millinder, second deputy Alice Saylor and clerks Helen Williams and Joyce Krout.

She also endorsed Millinder, who is seeking the Republican nomination for register against jury commissioner Hope Miller in the May 19 primary election. The top vote-getter will run against Democratic candidate Amanda McCartney.

“She’s like a sister,” Millinder said. “We’ll be sad to see her go. Hopefully I can fill her shoes.”

Barton said she plans on still being involved by attending meetings.

“I’ve really enjoyed working here, helping the public, and I’ll definitely miss it,” she said.