Municipal Clerks Working with Mayor’s
By Joel Popkin, Immediate Past President, Municipal Clerks Association of New Jersey
Municipal Government has two key people who are expected to have all the answers for the taxpayers. They are the Mayor and Municipal Clerk. That is why it is so important to have a good line of communication between those two.
Any Mayor, who has been in office for a period of time, knows that he or she often has to rely on the Municipal Clerk for information. The Municipal Clerk is a “Store House of Information” The job of Municipal Clerk is governed by state statutes and they must keep abreast of these laws as well as the Municipal Code.
To be a Municipal Clerk, one must take five classes from Rutgers. These classes include topics such as: elections, finance, purchasing, licensing, bond ordinances, records management4, land use law, and public contracts. Part of this training includes becoming familiar with a major part of N.J.S.A. 40 and 40A which are the statutes governing Municipalities. After the successful completion of the Rutgers classes, the candidate for Municipal Clerk must pass a state examination. After these requirements are met, the designation of RMC (Registered Municipal Clerk) is received from the State of New Jersey. To retain the State certification, the Municipal Clerk must receive continuing education credits on an ongoing basis.
If the Mayor and Clerk have a good working relationship, they often meet to keep each other abreast of current issues. They also probably discuss the content of the Agenda for meetings of the Governing Body. They review correspondence that affects the town, and exchange ideas on how to better serve the public. The Mayor and Municipal Clerk sign documents on behalf of the Municipality. They are the people who have the current information as to what legislation is pending or has just become law. The Municipal Clerk and the Mayor work hand-in-hand with the issuing of marriage licenses and the performing of the marriage vows.
Municipal Clerks have the ability to make a Mayor “Look Good”. Mayors should look to the Municipal Clerk for their knowledge and expertise of Municipal Government. The Municipal Clerk often can serve as a buffer and wards off people from knocking on the Mayor’s door. The Clerk deals with the media and represents the Mayor in his or her absence. The Municipal Clerk is often the first person who deals with people who enter the Municipal Building. The Clerk can set the tone for public relations and how the public perceives local government. When the public is treated in a professional manner at the front office, it is a reflection of the Mayor, the Governing Body, and the town as a whole. A Municipal Clerk could be the biggest asset to any Mayor.