Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much — Helen Kelleher
This week, as you are reading our “On The Road With Sherry" story, I will be attending our yearly New Hampshire City and Town Clerks 94th annual conference. My hat goes off to the original group of clerks that back in 1925 recognized the need for an annual gathering here in our great state!
As the second vice president at our annual meeting, I have been asked to offer inspirational words to our entire group. Potentially that could be 243 town clerks and 12 city clerks!
On a side note, did you know that public speaking is always the No. 1 fear in the world? It's followed by heights at No. 2, and bugs at No. 3.
What has always fascinated me about being a town or city clerk is that most people have no idea, I sure didn’t, that being a town or city clerk is considered the first most ancient and honorable profession in the world.
Historic records indicate that the first town clerk may go back as far as ancient Greece and biblical times. We were called “Remembrancers.” Originally, our job was to remember everything related to public records until writing finally came about.
When the colonists came to America back in 1776, the town clerk was one of the first positions established in the town.
We have always been considered the first link between town government and their residents. We are the voice of our community.
I think too, it is one of the few positions where at times, you really can feel like you are an island by yourself. We all have our team that we try to do our best for — our town manager and, most importantly, our residents that we love — and the reason we are here.
A dear friend recently described us as “Good Will Ambassadors” for our towns and cities. Most of us would agree that it can be a little lonely at times. Especially when we think back to when we first started.
Our President Raymah Simpson, the town clerk in Bristol, has been an inspiration to us throughout this year. Raymah’s No. 1 goal as our president has never wavered. She wants us to remember and learn from the past — amazing men and woman who have blazed the trail for us — but she also wants us to unite, support, welcome and take care of each other, as well as embrace the future together.
This is exactly what we need to do in our own communities and our neighborhoods — get to know and check in with each other.
Being a town or city clerk is not for the weak of heart. To be a clerk we have to wear many hats and we must be able to handle multifaceted situations at the blink of an eye. In our world, things can change in an instant!
Wikipedia defines our positions this way, “It is difficult to fully describe a clerk’s duties, because there are hundreds of different jobs a clerk must fulfill.”
Our elected and appointed positions require us to be mathematicians; teachers; experts in state, federal and local election law; counselors; greeters; direction givers; marriage officiants; historians; record keepers; dog catchers; justices of the peace; notaries; and, at times, hug givers and hand holders — my favorite part!
My hope, in our towns and at the conference I will be attending, is that we all can step outside of the box and embrace a few people that we don't know.
A dear friend, and former town clerk in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Onorina Maloney, takes it a step further. She challenges us to “Let’s not only think outside of the box, but she says let’s toss the box away completely!”
The same applies to our neighborhoods. Knock on a door, send a note, sit with someone else in a class, have breakfast with a new person, and look for the table or chair where someone may be sitting alone. Say hello, shake his or her hand, and get to know someone completely new.
Why not make plans to get together or visit each other’s town or city hall in your travels, too!
Sherry is town clerk in Londonderry and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire