Dedham's Town Clerk Paul Munchbach sat down with Dedham Patch editor David Ertischek to talk about what a town clerk does, how he can help residents, and how much he loves the job.
Patch: How long have you been Town Clerk?
Munchbach: I’m going on my eighth year.
Patch: What made you go for it?
Munchbach: I was previously an elected selectman for three terms, so I loved being a public servant, and the position became available. I researched it... I’ve worked in many elections and campaigns, and I knew a lot of election laws going into it, and I talked to the previous town clerk and staff here, who I had a great rapport with before. So I thought it’d be a good opportunity to serve the public on a full-time basis.
Patch: What does a town clerk do, specifically in Dedham?
Munchbach: From being up here full-time I think the town clerk's office is the pulse of the community. Any new register voter, any new resident, we have interaction with. I think the main responsibilities of the town clerk - I’m the chief election official for the town. I run all town, state and federal elections; (The Town Clerk is) in charge of all vital records and because Dedham is such an old town, we have a lot of vital and public records going back to the 1600s. Our motto in the office is: 'How can we help you?' We’re here to help the public. With my experience of being an elected selectmen, I can help resolve a lot of issues or questions that the part-time elected officials are not available to answer. We get those questions answered, or point them in the right direction. We have an open door policy, you can come in and sit down and talk about what’s on your mind.
The town clerk has lots of responsibilities like issuing dog licenses, raffle permits, business certificates, underground store permits. We’re in charge of the town census, it coincides with the US Census. We do a town census every year required by state statue to make sure residents are still living there, or if there was a change of residency.
We’re in charge of all the open meetings and posting agendas and minutes to meetings, making sure ethics of state laws are being complied with.
I also administer the oath for any elected or appointed official before they take office like the firefighters or police before they take duty.
The job is variety of responsibilities. It’s a great job, I absolutely love it. I love serving the public and working in the town I grew up in.
Patch: Do you talk to other town clerks?
Munchbach: Yup. We belong to the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association - that is a network of town clerks in the 351 towns. We have conferences quarterly and we meet and go over different state required statutes that are changing. We have speakers and (town clerk) go for credits. I am a certified town clerk. (Town Clerks) have the ability to be certified. It's about a 400-question exam that goes over Massachusetts laws, open meeting laws, you need an 80% or better, and only a certain amount of town clerks are certified. Probably about 50 of us, who are certified.
We also belong to the New England Association of City and Town Clerks... We have conferences and get together with other clerks from other cities and states and talk about issues they face and things that help, and ideas to make the job more accessible to the public.
The Dedham Town Clerk's office is located at Town Hall at 26 Bryant St., and the phone # is 781-751-9200.