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What Does a Town Clerk Do?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The responsibilities of a town clerk can vary, depending on where she holds the office. Town clerks are among the senior staff of a town and usually have duties including maintenance of vital records, management of elections, and issuance of public notices. Some are elected officials while others are appointed to the position by city officials. Residents of the town can contact the town clerk for assistance with a variety of activities, from locating birth certificates to getting licenses for parades.

In many towns, the town clerk keeps records on births, deaths, and marriages. These events are registered at the clerk's office, and he can provide copies upon request. The clerk also issues marriage licenses and may handle licenses for other activities, including dog licenses, hunting licenses, and so forth. As part of the work, the clerk needs to inspect documents presented for the purpose of verifying identity and can ask the resident some questions to make sure the license is being issued appropriately. In the event of questions about a license, the clerk has a copy on file.

Town clerks may also manage elections. For regional elections, the town clerk receives election materials from a central election office. In elections within the town, the town clerk must prepare ballots, information pamphlets, and other materials. Clerks also maintain voting equipment, set up polling places, and recruit polling workers to assist with the election. They must comply with any bylaws concerning elections, including those pertaining to special elections called in an emergency.

Public notices issued by a town clerk can include statements alerting members of the public to permit applications and public meetings. The work also usually includes keeping records on meetings of city council and various committees, particularly records of votes made in those meetings. The town clerk may publish public statements about the outcome of votes in meetings so residents can be made aware.

Most town clerks keep regular office hours and may have assistance from lesser clerks if they are managing records for a large town. In the event of the need to attend a meeting outside office hours, the clerk may receive overtime, unless she is on a salary. City employees usually receive benefits like retirement plans and health care. Wages vary, but are generally competitive with the region to provide an incentive to stay with the city. The qualifications needed to work in this position may include a degree or administrative experience, depending on standards set by the town.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

By tigers88 — On Nov 15, 2011

In very small towns it is sometimes the case that the town clerk is responsible for the entire administration of the city. There may also be a town council, or a mayor, but most other tasks are so routine that they are simply left to a dedicated clerk.

You figure that in towns where there is only a few hundred people or less there is really not that much town business. There are things to be done, but not that many to be discussed. A faithful clerk can often keep a small town afloat all by themselves.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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