History of the Clerk

The municipal clerk is one of the oldest known public professions dating as far back as ancient Athenian democracy. The title "clerk" is derived from the Latin word "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. When the early colonists came to America they set up forms of local government to which they had been accustomed, and the clerk's office was one of the first to be established.

Over the Years

Over the years, municipal clerks have become a hub of government, the direct link between citizens and their government. The clerk is a historian of the community, for the entire recorded legislative history of the city and its people are in his or her care. The eminent political scientist, Professor William Bennett Munro, writing in one of the first textbooks on municipal administration (1934), stated: "No other office in municipal service has so many contracts. 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." These words, written more than 50 years ago, remain appropriate today.

History of the Norfolk Clerk

Early in Norfolk's history the town recorder carried out some duties of the modern clerk. In 1736 Sir John Randolph, a knight and royal appointee, became Norfolk's first recorder. Later the same year, Samuel Boush Jr., Norfolk's first town clerk and son of Norfolk's first mayor, took office. In the middle of the 18th century, the city obtained its seal and ceremonial mace. The clerk remains the custodian of the historic seal and mace. The clerk's office still holds the oldest Norfolk municipal documents, as well as the original seals.