A City Clerk is Not Just a Secretary

Posted on August 2, 2018

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Welcome to a new blog series, “The Local Government Nerve Center” — all about the amazing and important work of clerks and recorders. Want to be a contributor? Learn more here.

By Amber Mathiesen, City of Mt. Angel Oregon City Manager

You can imagine the conversation that must go on in the head of new local government employees if they were to pause and think about the City Clerk’s role. City Clerks are also commonly titled as a Recorder or Municipal Clerk.  What exactly does a Clerk do anyway? Some may casually state the Clerk is the secretary that collects the staff reports and documents for the Council agendas, but that cannot be the only thing that person does.

This makes me want to shout “The Clerk is not a secretary anymore”!

Gone are the days where the Clerk simply took notes, filed papers in a drawer, and reminded people of important dates while scheduling meetings and making coffee.

While the Municipal Clerk is the oldest of public servants in local government along with the tax collector and the position is rich in history, it serves an even more complex role today.  The Clerk’s office is critical to a community, and is a hub of activity.

Depending on the size of the community the Clerk serves in multiple roles.  Generally the Clerk’s office is responsible for the compilation of the agenda, legal notices, public records request processes, and local elections.  Clerks are also responsible for recording and circulating all city council actions, resolutions, ordinances, and minutes.

In larger agencies the Clerk’s office may be a department with its own staff, or part of a larger department.  In smaller communities the Clerk may also serve as the Manager, alas without the title that is really deserved for the job at hand.

When examining the responsibilities of the City Clerk there is a great deal of responsibility which requires an aptitude for managing multiple priorities, with competing audiences as well as managing people.  Clerks today must embrace technology as they manage the voluminous number of records that are produced. Clerks are required to be able to communicate across multiple platforms while speaking to diverse audiences.

Clerks work with staff, the public, and elected officials and have access to volumes of information.  This makes the position a great place to gather information, learn about every department, and learn to communicate across audiences.  If you are looking for a position that offers a wide variety of duties where you are not a secretary, and you get to work with management on a daily basis, the Clerk position is definitely one to consider.

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