ELLSWORTH — Bonnie Cousins is retiring Dec. 31 after 11 years as the Hancock County register of probate.
“I’m not going to be another Margaret [Lunt],” quipped Cousins, referring to her late predecessor, who served in the post for 40 years before retiring at age 85.
“I think turning 70, it’s time to move on,” Cousins said.
Move on she will. Cousins and her husband, Walter, have bought a second home in Arcadia, Fla., where they will spend winters.
“It will be an experiment,” she said.
Cousins is credited with bringing the probate office into the 21st century. When she was elected in 2004, the office had not yet been computerized. Documents were still drafted by typewriter. Centuries of probate records — dating back to the year 1700, were bound by rubber bands and beginning to disintegrate.
The staff has also begun inputting each year’s records into a database for public use.
“Some 1700s are in the computer,” Cousins said. “We’re working towards the 15s .”
The records are popular for genealogists or those looking for a lost relative’s family members or settling questions about land ownership.
Retired Probate Judge Jim Patterson worked with Cousins for 10 years.
“I have only positive things to report about Bonnie Cousins,” Patterson said. “She’s very dedicated to her job as register. She was extremely helpful to me during the 10 years we worked together at the probate court.
“She’s an exceedingly generous and thoughtful person both in and out of the probate court. I don’t know who Governor LePage will appoint to replace her. I do know whoever that person is will have big shoes to fill.”
LePage will be appointing a replacement to fill the remaining year Cousins has left of her term.
Meanwhile, Deputy Probate Clerk Velma Jordan will assume Cousins’ responsibilities starting Jan. 1, 2016. Cousins has recommended to LePage that he appoint Jordan as her successor.
Cousins had retired from Maine Coast Memorial Hospital when she decided she needed to do something else with her life.
She was familiar with politics because her father, the late Dwight A. Brown Sr., had been Republican speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.
“I decided I wanted to serve the people,” Cousins said. “I knew how to win and I knew how to get the votes.”
The Ellsworth resident will miss her constituents and courthouse co-workers.
“I want to thank the people of Hancock County for giving me the honor to serve them and the employees of Hancock County for all the help,” Cousins said.
“I have served under some very special judges, Judge James Patterson, Judge Lyman Holmes and Judge William Blaisdell IV,” Cousins said.