otto_debruhl_buncombe_county_asheville_2016Otto DeBruhl, one of Buncombe County’s longest serving public servants before his 2011 retirement and a political advisor to countless local Democratic Party officials, died on Sunday. He was 81.

DeBruhl was appointed the county’s Register of Deeds in 1978 and went on to win seven consecutive elections. The office handles critical public records, including birth certificates and land records, and during his time in office, DeBruhl oversaw a modernization process then moved the records from written paper to digital access for anyone with a computer.

DeBruhl’s office was a revenue source for county government, and he hired his own employees, two facts that lent weight to his stature. Over time, that political power grew and eventually, anybody seeking public office in the Buncombe County Democratic Party had to have DeBruhl’s blessing.

At his retirement ceremony in January 2011, friends, colleagues and fellow elected officials described DeBruhl as a humble elected official who always put the public first. His long-time assistant, Joann Morgan, said DeBrhul was honest as the day was long, while former District Attorney Ron Moore noted that DeBruhl always looked out “for the little people who come up in this courthouse.”

Former Buncombe County Commissioners Carol Peterson and Bill Stanley, as well as Sheriff Van Duncan, all talked about DeBruhl’s political counsel. Peterson described being called to a breakfast meeting of local Democratic Party officials at the Cornerstone Restaurant where DeBruhl stood and announced that it had been decided that she would be a commissioner candidate.

“I said yes. It scared me to death,” Peterson said. “That is the kind of influence this man has on people.”

Charles Carter, then chairman of the Buncombe County Democratic Party, also noted DeBruhl’s singular service.

“He’s made the wheels of this government turn smoothly and quickly for the people of Buncombe County, and you can’t ask for a better public servant,” Carter said.

Here’s Otto DeBruhl’s obituary posted at Groce Funeral Home.

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