What does a county clerk do?

In a county as large as Los Angeles, the clerk is pretty much going to stick to filing vital records, since there are so many of them.
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If you've ever wanted to fill an elected civil service position bursting at the seams with responsibility, then consider working as a county clerk. The county clerk is responsible for filing vital records, or important documents related to a specific county's population, including birth, death and marriage certificates. Depending on the size of that population, the duties of the job can go a lot further than that. In counties with smaller populations, the clerk wears a number of different hats. It's one of those rare positions in which the more customers you have, the fewer responsibilities you hold.

Let's take Cook County, Illinois, for example. The county that includes Chicago and much of its metropolitan area has an estimated population of nearly 5.3 million people [source: Census]. Every time a Cook County resident is born, dies, marries, forms a domestic partnership or divorces, the clerk accepts and files the certifying legal document [source: Cook County]. Each of these is added to the millions of records that the Cook County clerk must maintain.


That's a lot of records to file and keep track of, so it's not surprising that the Cook County clerk's duties are limited to those specific certificates. A typical day in the office of the clerk for Bergen County, New Jersey, which includes county seat Hackensack, can be slightly more varied. Bergen County had less than 900,000 people in 2008, so the county clerk does more than file birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates [source: Census]. The clerk's office also files and processes residents' passport applications and property deeds, issues county IDs, gives, and files licenses for local doctors and business owners. Residents seeking U.S. naturalization file an application at the clerk's office. Bergen County's clerk also confirms and licenses notary publics and sometimes officiates at wedding ceremonies [source: Bergen County Clerk's Office].

Bergen County is fairly typical in its clerk's duties. The state of Texas requires its county clerks to oversee local elections. In San Juan County, New Mexico, the clerk is responsible for compiling the minutes of the official meetings of the local board of commissioners. Some county clerks also serve as the clerk of courts for the county probate judge. This means they're responsible for compiling and maintaining the paperwork for each case the judge hears.

Whether the county clerk stays busy through the sheer volume of records or the addition of extra responsibilities, his or her office is often underfunded and understaffed.

Kathy Michael, clerk for McLean County, Ill., says that managers in the private sector are "often flabbergasted by the complexity of the challenge -- and the very limited resources the clerk has at hand to meet that challenge." But, says Michael, "It must be done for our community to operate smoothly" [source: Michael].

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Lots More Information

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  • Bergen County Clerk's Office. "Services." Accessed March 23, 2010. http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/countyclerk/subpages/services.htm
  • Cook County Clerk. "Vital records." Accessed March 23, 2010. http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/vitalrecords/Pages/default.aspx
  • Kathy Michael for McLean County Clerk. "What does a county clerk do?" Accessed March 23, 2010. http://kathymichaelforclerk.com/what-does-a-county-clerk-do/
  • Probate Court of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. "What is the probate court?" Accessed March 23, 2010. http://probate.cuyahogacounty.us/home.htmil>
  • San Juan County, New Mexico Clerk's Office. "What does a county clerk do?" Accessed March 23, 2010. http://www.sjcclerk.net/Country_clerk_7.aspx
  • SF.gov. "Office of the county clerk." Accessed March 23, 2010. http://www.sfgov.org/site/countyclerk_index.asp?id=4472
  • Texas Association of Counties. "About counties -- county official information." Accessed March 23, 2010. http://www.county.org/counties/desc_office/clerk.asp
  • U.S. Census Bureau. "Bergen County, New Jersey." February 23, 2010. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/34/34003.html
  • U.S. Census Bureau. "Cook County, Illinois." February 23, 2010. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/17031.html