Municipal Clerks Handbook
The municipal clerk is the oldest of public servants in local government. The clerk’s profession, along with that of the tax collector, traces back to before biblical times. For example, the modern Hebrew translation of town clerk is “mazkir ha’ir,” which means city or town “reminder.” Before writing came into use, the early keepers of archives were often called “remembrancers,” as their memories served as the public record.
Over the years, the municipal clerk has become the hub of government, the direct link between the inhabitants of the community and their government. The clerk is the historian, holding the entire recorded history of the community and its people in his or her care. Depending on the form of government and the size of the municipality, the clerk is also the auditor, bookkeeper, custodian of the municipal seal, clerk of the police court, registrar of voters, personnel director, and tax collector.
The eminent political scientist, Professor William Bennett Munro, writing in 1934 in one of the first textbooks on municipal administration, stated: “No other office in municipal service has so many contacts. 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.”
There is no one reference for the municipal clerk to turn to when questions arise. In 1972, the Mississippi Municipal Clerks, Tax Assessors, and Tax Collectors Association, in conjunction with the Mississippi State Cooperative Extensive Service, developed the Handbook for Mississippi Municipal Clerks, Assessors, and Tax Collectors. The handbook was revised in 1989. In 2015, Janet Baird, a former city clerk and institute director at the time, took on the monumental task of rewriting the handbook. The handbook has become one of the most used resources for new and veteran municipal clerks in their day-to-day operations.
Responsibility for the final draft of the book, including any errors or shortcomings, falls to the editor. Readers of this publication who discover errors or who have suggestions for improvement are asked to communicate with the editor so that changes can be made when the book is next revised.
Jason Camp, Editor
Extension Specialist and
Institute Director for the
Municipal Clerk Certification Program
Center for Government and Community Development
Mississippi State University Extension Service
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