What is the Role of a Municipal Clerk?

Written by Jennifer Leibrock

Clerks ensure that municipal actions comply with all federal, state, and local statutes and regulations—and do so much more.

50 Tips to Become the Best Municipal Clerk in Your State

Gain confidence, experience, and exposure to fellow leaders, and continue bringing positive civic experiences to your community.

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Call them time masters. Call them the keepers of the records. Call them historians. Call them the protectors of democracy. Call them simply amazing.

The clerk’s role is nearly as embedded in American history as the Star-Spangled Banner. Internationally, the Office of Municipal Clerk can be traced back to the year 1272 A.D. in the history of the Corporation of Old London. Clerks are responsible for managing and maintaining historical and public records, organizing documentation, running meetings, and providing customer service to residents needing information. In some communities, clerks are elected officials, while in others, they are appointed by city officials. If that sounds like a simplification, what follows is a more granular explanation* of why we honor our clerks for a whole week each May.

*Note: Clerk responsibilities vary by community and administrative structure

Records Management Responsibilities

  • Issuance of licenses, including:
    • Marriage
    • Animals
    • Hunting
    • Parades
  • Maintenance of vital records, including:
    • Marriage and divorce
    • Births
    • Deaths
    • Arrests
    • Probate
    • Criminal and court records
    • Meeting agendas and supplemental materials
    • Meeting minutes
    • Voting records from council meetings
  • Document inspection and validation
  • Record filing

Meeting Management

Election Responsibilities

  • Election preplanning
  • Election management
  • Facilitation of special elections, if needed
  • Ballot preparation
  • Prepares information pamphlets and other materials
  • Maintain voting equipment
  • Set up polling places
  • Recruit polling workers
  • Assist election candidates in meeting their legal responsibilities before, during, and after an election
  • Certifying election results
  • Filing of final campaign disclosure documents.

Historical Record-Keeping Responsibilities

Public Communication Responsibilities

  • Issuance of public notices including:
    • Permit applications
    • Public meetings
    • Voting results from meetings
  • Act as the liaison between the public and City Council and provides related municipal services

Once known in ancient times as the remembrancers, today, clerks are digital change agents and curators of positive civic experiences. They maintain the lofty responsibility of ensuring that municipal actions comply with all federal, state, and local statutes and regulations and that they are properly executed, recorded, and archived.

If you’re a clerk, we thank you and offer you these fifty tips to become the best municipal clerk in your community.