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A Day in the Life of a Municipal Clerk

State law mandates that all cities and towns have a council-appointed municipal clerk, making the job the only staff position required of every municipality in South Carolina. The responsibilities of the job are generally administrative and sometimes financial in nature: providing public notice for all council meetings, taking and distributing minutes, treasury duties, as well as other tasks deemed necessary by the council. 
Many municipalities will set the job up with financial duties as well, which is the case in the Town of Gray Court. There, Doris Hamilton wears many hats, serving as the town clerk, and treasurer, and also as the clerk of court. Describing herself as a natural “people person,” Hamilton said she loves being of service to others.
Hamilton, a native of nearby Woodruff, said that the road to becoming the town clerk led her through many other professions beforehand: working for the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., the University of South Carolina, 17 years as a personnel clerk for an electronics plant, and an assistant manager at a bank. She first learned of the job in municipal government through a friend, and pursued it because of her passion for people and being of service to others. 

Doris Hamilton serves as town clerk for Gray Court. (Hi-res image)
Hamilton became town clerk for Gray Court in 2012, and now also oversees the town’s municipal court. She said she has enjoyed the work, and found that it keeps her busy. There have been challenges along the way, including never-ending technology changes. 
“Just when I think I have everything down pat, they come up with something new,” she said. 
New technology has not stopped Hamilton from tackling the challenges of the job. To overcome new technology hurdles, she took classes to keep on top of technological trends. 
Near the southern tip of the state in the Town of Yemassee, Matt Garnes has served as town clerk since 2017. His job takes him into many aspects of the town’s operations, overseeing all functions of the administration department, including business licensing, finance, human resources as well as planning and zoning. 

Crystal Bouknight Parker, right, is the city clerk for West Columbia. (Hi-res image)
Seeing the challenges of not having a fully functional website, Garnes worked to update the town’s outdated single-page website to one full of new information and resources. Using CivicPlus software, he created a full-service website enhanced with online payments, minutes and agendas, employment and housing information, and a documents library. Updating the website not only allowed public access to information but it also saved time, said Garnes. The new site now averages about 10,000 hits per month. 
Garnes also took on establishing a social media presence for the town, implementing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. He also manages the Yemassee Police Department’s Instagram and Twitter profiles. 

Yemassee Town Clerk Matt Garnes is interviewed by WSAV-TV at a ribbon cutting. (Hi-res image)
His career also had numerous steps on the road to becoming a town clerk. A native of New York, he first worked there as an EMT and emergency dispatcher, and later worked in those jobs in Beaufort County. In late 2017, he took a part-time position with the Town of Yemassee, which in 2018 turned into a full-time position, and in July 2018 he formally received the title of town clerk. 
In addition to his work as town clerk, Garnes has functions in human resources, payroll, finance, and planning and zoning.
For Garnes the work is both challenging and rewarding. Speaking of the rewards, he said, “I credit that to my 911 dispatcher days in Beaufort.” 
In West Columbia, City Clerk Crystal Bouknight Parker has the municipal clerk responsibilities, and she also carries the titles of executive assistant and administrative supervisor. In 2020, Parker obtained her Certified Municipal Clerk certification from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, helping her hone the skills necessary to handle her many job functions. 
The Spartanburg County native’s first career was working for a public school district. She initially transitioned to city government by taking a customer service job for West Columbia’s water department before the clerk position for the City of West Columbia opened up.
Parker’s daily activities in the job include preparing minutes for city council meetings, notes for all of the city administrator’s meetings, serving on the city’s safety committee, and working on the West Columbia Beautification Foundation.  She credited the way that she manages all of it to her notebook. 
“Everything goes into my notebook so that I don’t forget to do something,” she said. 
With her notebook in tow, she keeps detailed notes of conversations and to ensure that she has everything that’s necessary on her to-do list. 
Challenges in a position such as city clerk are many.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Parker said, “It was a challenge to work remotely for a while, to set up a complete office at the house, and to get nine council members set up with technology working properly.” 
She said virtual meetings helped the staff to weather the storm.  Although the city building was closed for five weeks, she said that the public was very understanding as she and her team worked hard to clean and sanitize before reopening fully last June. 
“It was interesting, but we didn’t seem to miss a beat,” Parker said.
The work of a municipal clerk can be challenging at times and require balance between numerous job requirements, but it can also be rewarding for those who serve in the position.