Municipal Clerk’s Education Fund (MCEF)
The Alaska Municipal League formed the Municipal Clerk’s Education Fund (MCEF) in 2021 to offer clerks opportunities for training and competence-building in the evolving and increasingly sophisticated field of municipal governance, and addresses the ongoing challenges of election management, technology implementation, office administration, and service delivery.
Clerks: the ‘backbone’ of local government.
Clerks are responsible for nearly everything, from record-keeping and organizing meetings, to managing local elections and cooperative activities with other local and Tribal governments.
After statehood in 1959, municipal clerks helped set the policies and procedures for newly formed state-chartered institutions such as cities and boroughs. In the early years, clerks were hired with little practical knowledge of how ‘government worked’ and professional support was nonexistent, requiring the clerks to ‘self-train.’ Taking what they had learned on their own, the clerks created a network amongst themselves to develop and share the practices and systems that became the core elements of Title 29, governing municipal activities throughout Alaska.
Often the primary source of continuity and institutional memory in municipal administration, clerks have outstanding longevity records in contrast to the high turnover rate among mayors and municipal administrators (e.g., in more than 50 years within the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, only five individuals have held the clerk position), making clerks the ‘backbone’ of local government.
Those serving in these critical roles would benefit from more sources of professional support and easier access to educational opportunities. Often isolated in demanding jobs in remote communities, clerks face growing work demands such as staying informed about changing election security procedures and voting technology and administering formal agreements and increased cooperation between municipal and tribal governments.
A Clerk’s Legacy
Newly minted Borough Manager Slajer (Ketchikan Daily News, circa 1979).
The ‘MCEF’ was established in memoriam to Judith “Judi” A. Slajer – a local government pioneer who helped develop the original municipal governance practices and procedures still followed today. Judi was hired as the Borough Clerk and first employee of the newly constituted Ketchikan Gateway Borough in December 1963. During her 16 years as Borough Clerk, before becoming the first woman Borough Manager in the state of Alaska, Judi helped create the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks to enhance its membership’s professional credentials and stature.