Education & Government
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The Diligent team
GRC trends and insights

What is a city clerk?

April 19, 2019
0 min read
A group of professionals outside the city clerk's office.

In this article, you will learn:

  • Job qualifications for a city clerk
  • The scope and purpose of the clerk’s role
  • Key duties and responsibilities expected of city clerks

If you’re the kind of person who likes to work in a fast-paced office with a wide variety of duties facing you at every turn, a career as a city clerk might be right for you. The role of the city clerk is a demanding one that gathers all the loose ends of administration and pulls them together. The city clerk plays an important role in service to the mayor, the city council, the city manager and all city administrative departments.

Some people equate the role of the city clerk in local government to that of the U.S. Secretary of State in the federal government. In larger cities, city clerks are expected to have a higher academic degree than in smaller cities and towns. The city clerk in the city of Chicago is second in rank only to the mayor. The city clerk in Pittsburgh is considered the center of government and serves as the direct link between city residents and the government.

What Are the Job Qualifications for a City Clerk?

The minimum educational requirement for a city clerk is usually a B.S. in Business Administration, Public Administration or a related field. The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) states that almost 60% of city clerks had an MPA, MBA or other graduate degree as of 2012. Some jurisdictions may also require that candidates for city clerk have experience as a city department head or deputy city clerk.

The best candidates for the position of city clerk will be highly knowledgeable in the areas of public policy, accounting, finance, urban planning, transportation, emergency management and community development. A strong resume will also demonstrate that the applicant has leadership qualities and a basic understanding of government law.

City clerks must ensure that the local government they serve is in compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations. Related to these responsibilities, the role requires clerks to have important personal characteristics, such as strong interpersonal skills, sound ethics, versatility, alertness and patience.

The role also requires many administrative duties, so city clerks must be adept at computer skills and must have a reasonable knowledge of software applications. In addition, skilled city clerks will have excellent communication skills, be great multi-taskers and be able to manage their time well.

What Is the Role of the City Clerk?

Historical records indicate the role of the city clerk dates back to Ancient Greece. Today, the role is considered the backbone of most local governments, and it’s one that continues to have great relevance and importance.

The role of the city clerk varies depending on the size and structure of the local government. The city clerk may be asked to perform the duties of an accountant, public relations individual, office manager, customer service representative, purchasing agent or any other city administration duties that need to be done.

What Are the Duties and Responsibilities of a City Clerk?

A city clerk wears many hats during the course of their employment. One of the primary duties is managing city council meetings from start to finish. The clerk handles all of the pre-meeting planning for council meetings, including scheduling meetings, setting up the council meeting room, and communicating with elected officials and the public about the details of the meeting.

In addition to getting everything ready for the meeting, city clerks prepare the meeting agenda and send it out to the meeting participants with a request for additions, deletions or changes. This is a task that clerks can complete much more expediently by using iCompass’ Meeting Manager software. This is a digital software solution that streamlines workflows and approvals for the entire scope of duties related to council meetings, which may cut meeting preparation time by up to 80%.

The city clerk is also responsible for taking roll call during meetings and taking meeting minutes. After the meeting, the city clerk records and edits the meeting minutes and then gets them approved before distributing the final copies. iCompass’ Meeting Manager program streamlines these duties as well by creating minutes automatically and providing online access to all agendas, records and reports via the Civic Web Portal.

The city clerk has many duties related to records management, including:

  • Recording data
  • Transcribing, typing and proofreading documents
  • Filing, storing and maintaining records
  • Preparing and maintaining official reports, legal documents and financial records
  • Ensuring that the public has access to public records

The city clerk serves as the liaison between the city council and the public. This requires them to be able to communicate effectively with management, government officials and staff. In addition, the city clerk coordinates municipal elections, administers oaths of office and maintains custody of the city’s official seal.

The iCompass Transparency Portal is a valuable tool for city clerks where they can post audio and video recordings of council meetings. The portal is also a good place to store and post videos of council meetings, which saves the city clerk much time spent answering the public’s questions. They can mark various parts of meeting agendas and minutes with time stamps to make it easy for the public to find information. The portal is also a great place to file public documents electronically because it allows the public to locate and retrieve documents completely online.

A financial background is helpful for city clerk candidates because they often help to prepare the annual city budget, balance the city ledger, serve as an accounts payable officer and work with city auditors.

The volatile economy across the nation has caused local governments to tighten up their budgets and redistribute duties among staff. Changes have increased the workload for many city clerks. Many cities have transferred duties such as issuing zoning permits, vehicle stickers and licenses; recording the actions of boards and commissions; accepting passport applications for the U.S. Department of State; and serving as a registrar of vital statistics.

The entire community relies on the city clerk for expertise and information about their local government. Using digital software from iCompass creates the necessary efficiency for which all local governments strive. Efficiency equates to cost savings, which is another highly important issue for citizens. Once they discover the benefits, it’s a platform that city clerks won’t want to work without.


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