History of the Municipal Clerk - Early Beginnings
The term “clerk” is an ancient and honorable one. It comes from the early middle ages when churches regulated many local government matters and only clergymen were educated and could write; therefore, the idea of a clerk as a writer, keeper of records and local official comes from this history. The first settlers in America soon created the office of parish or town clerk, and the post continues today as an essential position in municipal government. Every city and town in the nation, regardless of size or form of government, has a clerk or equivalent position. In Florida, the city clerk is an important and exacting position in municipal government. The clerk is expected to know virtually everything about the operation of the city and how to accomplish all that needs to be done. Even when the clerk is not an expert, the clerk’s office must know where to refer a question or problem for proper action or answer. The role of the municipal clerk has been well described by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks: “The clerk’s office can be truly called the hub of local government. It is the clerk who is the contact between the citizens and the government. It is he or she to whom most complaints are brought. The Clerk gives advice on many subjects, not necessarily relating to the government, but by his or her contact with the public, they, for a great part, place confidence in them as the one who can answer most any question.
HISTORY OF THE MUNICIPAL CLERK EARLY BEGINNINGS
The Municipal Clerk is the oldest of public servants in local government, along with the tax collector. The profession traces back before Biblical times. For example, the modern Hebrew translation of Town Clerk is "Mazkir Ha'ir" which literally translated, means city or town "Reminder:' The early keepers of archives were often called "Remembrancers:' and before writing came into use, their memory served as the public record. Ancient Greece had a city secretary who read official documents publicly. At the opening of a meeting, one of his first duties was to decree a curse upon anyone who should seek to deceive the people. St. Paul and his followers during his missionary work in Persia (now Western Turkey) owed their safety to the action of a town clerk. As related in Acts 19:22-41, written in A.D. 58, the artisans of Ephesus who made the idols of the time, feared the effect of Paul's missionary work on their trade. They incited a mob to seize two of Paul's followers. The town clerk, however, spoke out against this action and insisted that charges laid against these men had to be settled in the proper manner and before the proper authorities. There was no justification for riotous conduct. With that, he dispersed the crowd. Reportedly, the regency line of France descends from the office of the Clerk! According to James Bryce in his book "The Holy Roman Empire," there is a direct link between the position of Mayor of the Palace, a clerical post created by the Merovingian Kings of France, and all subsequent Kings of France. In the eighth century, the Frankish Kings of France depended on the Mayor of the Palace to perform all manner of clerical and administrative tasks for the King including collecting taxes and fees, publishing documents, keeping state records and assisting in the enforcement of the King's justice. In 751, the Merovingian King, Childeric, was deposed and his assistant, Pippin, the Mayor of the Palace, became not only the monarch of France but was simultaneously created a Patrician of Rome by Pope Gregory the Third. Pippin was, in turn, father of the great Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor and founder of the Carolingian Dynasty of Europe on High, which in successive generations, produced the Kings of France, as well as the Emperors of Germany and Austria. DEVELOPMENT IN ENGLAND The title "Clerk" as we know it developed from the Latin clericus. During the Middle Ages, when scholarship and writing were limited to the clergy, clerk came to mean a scholar, especially one who could read, write, and thus serve as notary, secretary, accountant and recorder.
Evolution of Government Clerks in History - Laserfiche