Who is it that spends days, if not weeks — if not months — preparing for elections and town meetings, ensuring deadlines are followed to the T and due process applies to everyone?

Who is it that meticulously reviews municipal election rules, answers the multitude of voter questions, and politely and unfailingly completes voter registration?

And who is it that rounds up a willing team to ensure voting booths are set up, and ballot machines are functioning, and then stays from the anticipatory opening to the bitter end, greeting voters, watching them like hawks, and then counting their ballots way past bedtime?

In all cases, it is the town or municipal clerk, with the help of assistants and community volunteers, who keeps the mechanics of the democratic system oiled and functioning. These clerks do it without much complaint, though we wouldn’t blame them one bit if they got cross now and then. Usually they shrug their shoulders, admit it is going to be a long night, order pizza for the volunteers, and settle back to ride the long road to counting results. And at the final lap, they make sure the yawning newsrooms across the region get results faxed to them, so the public knows as soon as possible who and what prevailed.

Depending on the election season, the level of tension can rise for the clerks, sometimes to precipitous flood levels, especially when recounts are warranted or when partisanship shows its aggressive nature. But the clerks remain cool headed, check the laws and keep the boat on an even keel.

The role of a town clerk extends way back over centuries, and such a clerk is considered by some to be the oldest of public servants, along with the tax collector, according to a history provided by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

“The profession traces back before biblical times,” the history reads. “For example, the modern Hebrew translation of town clerk is ‘Mazkir Ha’ir,’ which literally translated means city or town ‘reminder.’ The early keepers of archives were often called ‘remembrancers,’ and before writing came into use, their memory served as the public record.”

Today they are still the rememberers. They are ones reporters often lean on for the “who” and the “where” and the “why” for many stories. They run the school budget validation meetings, annual town meetings and the polls on election day. They know their communities inside and out, and as true rememberers, even long after they retire they always manage to ask about our families when we bump into them in the grocery stores.

Town clerks, according to political scientist William Bennett Munro, are the ones who tie together all the loose ends within municipal administration, and the public has little idea of how much they do. In 1934 he wrote:

“No other office in municipal service has so many contracts. It serves the mayor, the city council, the city manager (when there is one), and all administrative departments without exception. All of them call upon it, almost daily, for some service or information. Its work is not spectacular, but it demands versatility, alertness, accuracy and no end of patience.”

We thank the town clerks and their assistants throughout the Midcoast for their hard work, for answering endless questions, and for so ably holding our municipalities on track.