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Thank a town clerk — and vote on Aug. 14

There are too many things in life we take for granted. Those who live in the Northwest Corner should take a solid look at the work the town clerk in each of their towns does, and consider what that work means to the lives of the people they serve. In an election year like this one, their role in holding together the strands of our democracy on the local level should be clear and appreciated, now more than ever.

It could be that the contact with the town clerk for many of us is the yearly visit for a dog license, taken care of efficiently and cheerfully, no doubt, by the person behind the desk in the town hall. Does the process change a little each year? Only if regulations and state statutes have changed, which can happen, and when it does, the town clerk has to stay on top of those changes and implement them, for every part of the job. And rest assured, the job entails much more than just doling out dog licenses. 

The town clerks are the public information officers who serve as liaisons between local government and the public, according to the ct.gov website. They are responsible for public records, vital statistics and licensing. They have certain significant duties in reference to elections, and registrars of voters are responsible for others. Town clerks are bound to abide by the regulations defined by the state Freedom of Information Act, and must be aware of the way the act affects the release of public records. Also in accordance with Freedom of Information Act requirements, they must post meeting notices for local government bodies. They record, index and preserve municipal land records, surveys and maps, maintain records of all kinds of legal town documents and administer the oath of office to local elected and appointed officials. They register and maintain original birth, marriage and death certificates, as well as vital statistic records and citizen verifications. And of course, they issue all types of licenses, including marriage, liquor, hunting, fishing, dog (Why not cat? Or bear? A discussion for another day.) and trapping. 

They also are required to attend statewide conferences to discuss election laws and procedures, in order to keep up with all the requirements associated with their duties in reference to elections. That list is long and daunting, including everything from certifying nominating petitions to preparing the explanatory text for a local referendum question to notifying the secretary of the state of campaign finance statement filing violations. One area town clerk said with a laugh, “If anyone thinks the town clerk’s job is easy, I wish they would come in and go through just one election cycle with us.”

Can anyone still think this job is easy? It is not; it is difficult and also very important to the functioning of every town. The town clerk can set the tone in a Town Hall for better or worse, and while all of us have our bad days, the Northwest Corner towns have to count themselves extremely fortunate for the way their town clerks handle day-to-day business and set an example for communication with the public. 

Take the time to stop in at your Town Hall, and thank your town clerk. This is a thank-you to each of them in the area towns for the service they provide with sincere smiles, even when they are certainly under some measure of duress.

And vote in this year’s important elections. The Connecticut primaries for both Democrats and Republicans are on Aug. 14, and Election Day is Nov. 6.