Mary Cathcart, center, is the clerical supervisor in the state Marriage License Office, where people go to obtain a marriage license certificate. On Thursday, she interviewed applicants Jeremy Pulver and Steffani Powers, who had just flown in from Salt Lake City. They were all smiles as Powers held up their just-completed marriage license certificate.

Oh, happy day!

Mary Cathcart finds it hard to get
depressed working at the state
Marriage License Office

Mary Cathcart

Title: Clerical supervisor

Job: Manages the staff in the state Marriage License Office

Mary Cathcart works in one of the happiest offices in state government -- the one where marriage license certificates are issued. The staff generally is happy because most of the people coming in to apply for the certificates are in a happy mood. After all, they're getting married! Maybe things won't work out for the applicants in the long run, but for now, it's fun to be around such romantics, and invitations to weddings are not uncommon at the office, where Cathcart has been working since 1991. She became the supervisor just last month, succeeding Charlene Harada, who retired in December. Cathcart, 46, is a graduate of Star of the Sea High School. She also attended Kapiolani Community College for a year. Before the marriage office, she worked for Bank of Hawaii, and before that, for restaurant operator Volume Service. She and her husband, Thomas, have three grown children -- two boys and a girl -- and live in Waimanalo.

Question: Why is the Marriage License Office part of the state Office of Health Status Monitoring?

Answer: We're all connected to the Office of Health Status Monitoring, but we break down into the issuance, where you get your certified copies for birth certificates, marriage certificates and some divorce -- it depends what year. And then there's the office that is the Current and Registration Office, and then there's our office, with the marriage license.

Q: What do you mean "current" office?

A: When a couple comes in and applies for a license, they get a license certificate. That license certificate, they take it to the minister or judge who's performing the ceremony, and once that's done, the performer mails that license to the Current and Registration Office.

Q: Then what happens?

A: What they mostly do with that is they review it line by line, to make sure the spellings are correct; they do the research to make sure that that person is the first or second marriage, that whatever statement they give on the certificate is true. So they make all the corrections and what not, then they register it, give it a state file number, and then that's where the issuance department comes in. They're the ones who mail the certificate to the couple.

Q: How many people are in your office and what do they all do?

A: Right now in Kin Hale, there's a total of five agents.

Q: They all work on marriages?

A: Correct.

Q: Do each of them do the interviewing of the couples?

A: Correct.

Jeremy Pulver and Steffani Powers gave each other a kiss Thursday after interviewing with Mary Cathcart, center, of the state Marriage License Office. Typical of most couples who come in for a license certificate, they were in a good mood, despite just having arrived on a 15-hour flight from Salt Lake City. Their wedding date is Aug. 23.

Q: Do you find this to be a happy job, since I would assume you see so many people who are in love and want to get married?

A: Yes! The majority of couples are happy, and we try to make it as pleasant as possible.

Q: Do they ever get annoyed sometimes if there's a long line?

A: They're really patient when the lines are long. Especially when there's a three-day holiday, the lines get long, with lines up to a 30-, 40-minute wait. But they're very patient. We'll say sorry for the wait, and then they go, "It wasn't that long." They're very kind to us also.

Q: What are some of the things you do specifically each day?

A: Well, right now we're short one person. We usually have a clerk that does a lot of reports for the outside islands, so we have one clerk on Wednesdays that helps us in our office to send reports to the outer islands or supplies to our agents on the other islands.

There's approximately 30 agents that cover the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kauai and Hawaii. So I'm doing like two positions right now. It ranges from if say, an agent makes an incorrect spelling, we need to do the research to make the corrections on names and birthdays.

Q: So is your work mostly paperwork?

A: Paperwork and legal research. So if someone is researching parents' names, and information on their genealogy, this is a legal document, so the information needs to be correct and truthful as possible.

Q: How much of your work is face to face with the couples (applying for certificates)?

A: Probably 90 percent of the day.

Q: What are some of the most common problems or questions that people have when they come down or call about getting a marriage license?

A: Our phone rings a lot, and their questions and concerns are mostly what kind of documents do they need to bring when they apply for a marriage license. And the first question we ask is, "Are the bride and groom 19 years or older?"

Q: Is 19 the legal marriage age?

A: If they're 18 and under, we request they bring in their original birth certificate.

Q: What is the legal marriage age?

A: Sixteen. If you're 15, you must submit written consent from a judge of the family court allowing you to marry at that age.

Q: What's the oldest couple you helped get a marriage license?

A: Judith Brown, she's another agent here, I think she had someone 96. The groom was 96. Please don't ask me how old the bride was. (Laughter)

Q: Can you ever spot couples that seemed doomed from a marriage standpoint?

A: Irene (Takeda) has been here since 1986, and she spots them really well. She can tell off the spot that that couple's in trouble, but she doesn't say anything.

Q: Are there any people you could call "regulars" coming in for new marriage licenses?

A: Yeah. Like yesterday I had a couple come in and this is his fifth marriage. But he was divorced in Arizona. So, yeah. But the bride, she thought this was the right one, so she didn't mind marrying someone who had been married five times, and they seemed happy about it.

And then you have the first-time marriages, and they're really in love and this is the right one.

Q: Have you ever been invited to anyone's marriage who got their license from you?

A: These ladies (in the office) get invited mostly every day to attend someone's wedding ceremony. I just got invited to a wedding on Lanai. The groom offered to fly me out there, but I wasn't privileged to go.

Q: Is that an ethics policy or you just didn't get around to it?

A: I just didn't get around to it. I didn't have the opportunity to do so.

"Hawaii at Work" features people telling us what they do for a living. Send suggestions to mcoleman@starbulletin.com

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