“Atypical” Day for a Town and City Clerk
The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.
In 1934, political scientist, Professor William Bennet Munro, published one of the first textbooks on municipal administration. In regard to the Municipal Clerk’s office, he wrote: “No other office in municipal service has so many contracts. It serves the mayor, the city council, the city manager (when there is one), and all administrative departments without exception. All of them call upon it, almost daily, for some service or information. Its work is not spectacular, but it demands versatility, alertness, accuracy, and no end of patience. The public does not realize how many loose ends of city administration this office pulls together."
Therefore, when asked what a typical day looks like for a town or city clerk, do not be surprised to receive a response of, “there is no typical day,” followed by a good-natured laugh or a mischievous smile. Our work is ever changing, as we move from one task to the next. Many of us write to-do lists, with the hope we can accomplish our tasks by the end of the day. However, we are lucky if we can accomplish all those tasks but the end of the week. We wear many hats for our communities, our staff and peers: public relations, information desk, “firefighter” (putting out the figurative fires around us), supervisor, mentor, friend, detective, researcher, therapist, etc. Some of us also hold the office of Tax Collector in addition to our Clerk duties.
At the most basic level, a “typical” day in a town or city clerk’s office, likely involves the most common transaction types: motor vehicle registrations, dog licensing, vital records, property tax payments, water & sewer payments, and voter registration.
The atypical transactions can run the gamut from 91-A requests; vital records amendments; lengthy motor vehicle transactions; dog licensing civil forfeitures; researching the establishment of a road from 1761; filing wetlands permits; researching items for our City Councils, Selectmen or Alderman; helping other departments with requests for guidance on public meetings; and of course, Elections! (That is a whole other beast to contend with that requires months of planning, coordination and training with local officials, municipal departments, and state agencies.) And that does not cover everything – this list could go on.
While it seems like a lot, variety is the spice of life. Even with the hectic days and inevitable stress that can come along with our tasks, I would not want to do anything else. I love being a Clerk. And I truly believe all of my fellow Clerks (including their Deputies and Assistants) would agree, being a Clerk is a very rewarding career.