Notary of the Year

Montana’s Notary of the Year Program

Since 2009, the Secretary of State has recognized the valuable contributions of Montana’s notaries public by honoring those who have provided outstanding notary service to their customers.  We want share the stories of the excellent notaries who provide this valuable service every day in every community in the state.

The process starts when nominations are submitted by supervisors, co-workers, customers, friends, and even by the notaries themselves.  Nominations can be submitted on the form we provide, or by letter or email.   A strong recommendation by someone who is familiar with the notary’s work is a great first step for a successful candidate. Nominations can be submitted at any time during the year.

Approximately one month before the award is to be announced, the nominees are contacted by our office and asked to provide the additional information we need to evaluate them.

The criteria we use to assess Notary of the Year candidates are:

1. How long has the notary been commissioned

Longevity, by itself, is a minor consideration. Generally speaking a brand-new notary hasn’t established a history of excellent notary service, but one of our honorees was still in her first term when she was selected as the 2013 Notary of the Year.

2. What types of documents does the notary handle?

A candidate who tends to notarize many different types of documents receives stronger points in this category than a notary who routinely handles the same type of requests.  A review of the notary’s journal pages tells us what types of documents and types of notarial acts the notary has performed.

3. Has a complaint ever been filed against the notary?

Let’s be honest, having a complaint filed against the notary sounds like an automatic disqualifier – but that’s not necessarily the case.  Often the complaints we receive have no merit and our investigation actually determines that the notary was doing an excellent job.  However, a complaint that resulted in action being taken against the notary’s commission would not bode well for the nominee’s success.

4. Has the notary received a warning letter for an improper notarization?

We do review our records to see if the nominees have received improper notarization or warning letters.  Again, this is not an automatic disqualifier, but a history of not understanding the requirements of the notarial office is certainly not a good thing.

5. Is the notary keeping a journal properly?

This is the most critical and objective criteria we use in judging the nominees.  We look to see if the records are chronological, and all entries are complete with date and time of notarization, type of document, date of document, the name, address and signature of the signer, the method by which the signer was identified and the issue or expiration date of the identification credential if one was used, and the fee, if one was charged.  We also check to see if the notary is recording the correct type of notarial act for the corresponding documents (for example, does the journal show “signature witnessing” as the type of notarial act for Montana motor vehicle title issued after 2010; or “jurat” for an older title?)  We also check to see if information, such as Social Security Numbers, drivers’ license numbers or other private information that should not be recorded, does not appear.


If you aspire to be a Montana Notary of the Year, these are the qualities we look for:  A demonstrable understanding of the requirements of the office, a commitment to improving your notarial skills*, and a history of providing excellent notary service. 


2016 Notary of the Year

Jerry Burley

Jerry Burley, Assistant Vice President and Loan Officer at Freedom Bank in Columbia Falls, was recently selected as the 2016 Montana Notary of the Year. Jerry has been a notary for almost twenty years, beginning at the start of his banking career fresh out of high school. The job required him to be a notary, so he became one. “It’s the conversations I have with them while they sign and getting to know them,” Jerry said is the reason he enjoys providing notary services to his customers.

Jerry epitomizes what it means to be a professional notary public. He was chosen from a strong field of nominees for demonstrating exceptional services and high standards of practice.

Because he was named Montana Notary of the year, Jerry is automatically nominated for the National Notary of the Year award given annually by the National Notary Association. Three previous Montana winners were finalists for the national award.


Previous Notary of the Year Winners

Sabrina Hallsten, Montana's Notary of the Year 2015

Sabrina Hallsten
2015 Montana Notary of the Year
Helena, Montana
Luxan & Murfitt

Gayle Doney, Montana's Notary of the Year 2014

Gayle Doney
2014 Montana Notary of the Year
Lewistown, Montana
Montana Tenth Judicial District Court

Tara Bradford, Montana's Notary of the Year 2013

Tara Bradford
2013 Montana Notary of the Year
Bozeman, Montana
Encompass

Elwood English, Montana's Notary of the Year 2011

H. Elwood English
2011 Montana Notary of the Year
Billings, Montana
Montana Notary Guild

Carolyn Barton, Montana's Notary of the Year 2010

Carolyn Barton
2010 Montana Notary of the Year
Kalispell, Montana
Glacier Bank

Debra Kelly, Montana's Notary of the Year 2009

Debra Kelly 
2009 Montana Notary of the Year
Livingston, Montana
Sky Federal Credit Union

 

If you have any questions about the information we consider, or need more information about the Notary of the Year program, contact us at sosnotary@mt.gov.