As one of the oldest, most important, and most revered roles in human civilization millennia, the role of the city clerk originates back to ancient civilizations when scribes would document the business of government. Civilization involves the proper execution and operation of government to truly serve the people’s needs, and city clerks have always helped record the proceedings of government to ensure that its legal processes are executed properly.
As the United States has grown over the past few centuries from a handful of towns to the thousands of modern cities we know today, the role of the city clerk has evolved along with the growth of our population and shifts in technological progress. Today, the city clerk is literally the glue that holds many cities together. Through their records management, documentation of city council meetings, and public-facing service roles, city clerks wear many hats and tend to be among the most knowledgeable, networked people within a city.
Your role as city clerk comes with the weight of much responsibility, reverence, and service that makes it a job unlike any other in the United States. Feel rightfully honored and privileged to serve your city in this role.
The role of city clerk varies from city to city, encompassing many job functions that involve but are not limited to the following tasks.
- Documenting and facilitating city council meetings. City clerks help run city council meetings, prepare and distribute agendas, take minutes, and publicize all information which is required to be publicized by the law.
- Document and publish ordinances and resolutions. City clerks help ensure that the process of creating an ordinance or resolution follows any legal procedures and processes. They help create the documents, distribute them for amendments and revisions, and publish them for the public to see when such documents are subject to public inspection, public release, and open records laws.
- Public records management. To ensure transparency, city clerks are tasked with properly maintaining public records and handling any open records requests.
- Records retention management. City clerks organize, maintain, archive, and delete records according to Georgia law and the city’s records retention schedule (which cities are required to have).
- Contract, bidding, and request for proposal (RFP) coordination. While a purchasing department or other employee may handle more day-to-day technical details pertaining to bids, city clerks (especially at smaller cities) will often have a hand in helping create, distribute, and coordinate communication related to bidding and purchasing.
- Licenses, permits, and payments. City clerks often serve as the point of contact for issuing licenses and permits, collecting payments related to licenses and permits, and managing these business records.
- Ethics filings. City clerks handle the collection and management of documents related to ethics filings for political candidates including campaign contributions and financial disclosure.
- Elections. City clerks qualify candidates and help coordinate election information, communication, and processes. Qualifying Officers and Election Superintendents must complete a certification program through the Secretary of State Elections Division.
- Financial administration. City clerks sometimes handle financial administration, including tax and revenue collection, especially at smaller cities which do not have dedicated finance officers.
- Human resources. City clerks, especially at smaller cities, may serve as the city’s human resources director and coordinator.
- Planning and zoning. City clerks may serve as the Planning and Zoning Administrator for a city.
- Annexations. City Clerks may hold responsibility for the filing, reporting, and maintaining of annexation documents.
- Municipal court clerk. In some cities, the city clerk may also serve in the role of municipal court clerk. This may include managing court records, financial administration of fines and penalties, and officiating over court paperwork.
- Utilities. In some cities, the city clerk will manage utility billing account records and finances related to utility billing.
Georgia Municipal Clerks Association (GMCA)
For ongoing continuing education and networking, the Georgia Municipal Clerks Association (GMCA) is a professional association comprised of City Clerks, Finance Officers and other municipal staff from all across Georgia. Founded in 1956 in Athens, Georgia, GMCA is dedicated to improving the professionalism and education of City Clerks and Finance Officers. GMCA has grown to exceed 350 members representing small and large municipalities.
The mission of the GMCA is to promote integrity and excellence through education and professional development, to strengthen and support the GMCA membership, and to enhance its image.
GMCA promotes improvement and efficiency in the office of the City Clerk in the many cities and towns of Georgia by:
- Promoting cooperation between the City Clerks by the interchange of experiences and methods of conducting their offices that each may profit from the experience of others.
- Promoting periodic conferences or meetings of the City Clerks of cities and towns of Georgia for discussion of municipal problems and by research to find solutions for the same.
As a member of the GMCA, you can perform your duties more effectively and productively. You will participate in and exchange ideas with a large network, or rather a family, of warm, caring and understanding clerks and finance officers across Georgia. GMCA sponsored educational programs are your main resource for continuing your professional development.
Georgia Municipal Clerks Association website
“State law (O.C.G.A. sections 36-1-24 and 36-45-20) requires anyone hired as of April 1, 1992, holding the title of "clerk" or performing the duties of a municipal / county clerk pursuant to the local charter, ordinance, or code shall attend a 15-hour mandated orientation training. The training consists of a basic overview of job duties and functions required of clerks. Mandated training is offered at the fall and winter training conferences. The 15-hour mandated training counts toward the 100 hours required for full certification.” – Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the University of Georgia
The Georgia Municipal Clerks Association (GMCA), the County Clerks Association, and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) worked together to develop a Georgia Certification Program for Municipal and County Clerks consisting of educational and professional development standards for the 100 hours of required instructional courses. Training opportunities are held throughout the state at GMA events, GMCA conferences, and CVIOG training classes. More information can be found on GMCA website or the CVIOG website.
Two additional certificate programs for certified municipal clerks include:
- Masters Education Management Development Certificate Program
- Masters Education Graduate Seminar (MEGS)
Georgia Certification Program Guide
International Institute of Municipal Clerks (IIMC) Certification
In addition, many city clerks also pursue International Institute of Municipal Clerks (IIMC) certification by taking the Certified Municipal Clerk (CMC) Program. The IIMC certification requires 120 hours of training and goes beyond what you learn through the Georgia certification.
IIMC Certified Municipal Clerk (CMC) Program
Finance Officer Certification
For city clerks who also engage in the area of finance, the CVIOG offers level one and level two Local Finance Officer Certification Programs. You can find more information about the certification program on the CVIOG website.
Municipal Court Clerk’s Training
If the city clerk serves as the municipal court clerk, Georgia state law requires that all chief clerks obtain annual certification. Chief municipal court clerks are required to complete 16 hours of training in the first year of employment, and 8 hours annually each year thereafter. According to the Georgia Municipal Court Clerk’s Council website, “The Municipal Courts Training Council may approve full or partial credit for classes sponsored by another agency such as the Georgia Crime Information Center or the Superior Court Clerks Cooperative Authority.” For more training details, visit the Georgia Municipal Court Clerk’s Council website.
The Georgia Election Code (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-101) requires that all county and municipal election superintendents satisfactorily complete a certification program approved by the Secretary of State within six months of appointment. The certification program may include instruction on, and may require the superintendent to demonstrate proficiency in, the operation of the voting equipment and in state and federal law and procedures related to elections. For more information, visit the Secretary of State Elections Division website.