Want to do business with the city of Rome? Or, do you want to do business within the city of Rome? Your one-stop shop for getting started in Rome is the office of the City Clerk. Joe Smith has been the City Clerk for 33 years.
A Rome native, Lindale actually Smith has his fingers on the pulse of virtually everything that happens within the city. As secretary to the City Commission, Smith keeps the records of every commission meeting.
City Commission records go back as far as 1876. “Branson (Gayler, his predecessor) and I had conversations about what happened to the city’s records from the time of its founding (1834) until then and no one knows. Speculation was that they were perhaps inadvertently destroyed through the years, perhaps during a cleanout. Still, no one knows,” Smith said.
Smith had just graduated from college at Shorter when he asked a friend, current Probate Judge Steve Burkhalter, who was over Human Resources in the city. He asked Burkhalter to let him know if there was ever a city job opening that Burkhalter felt Smith might be interested in. Smith was working in a local grocery, the former Big Star one night when he got a call from Burkhalter, who said the assistant city clerk post had come open and felt like Joe might be a good fit.
Smith came to City Hall the next morning and met with Burkhalter and Clerk Branson Gayler for a job interview. “Branson and I kind of hit it off, and so I came back Monday to interview with John Bennett and Branson and ended up getting hired,” Smith explained. “I knew nothing about the city of Rome or local government in 1987, but I was certainly interested in learning. Branson and I really bonded. I could not have had a better person to teach me about local government than Branson and John Bennett.”
The basic job hasn’t changed much over the years. The office of the City Clerk has picked up some duties through the years. These include Building Service workers, those who clean up city buildings, and the Facilities division, which manages the rental of the City Auditorium, the Civic Center, and the Community Center (formerly known as the Senior Center).
Smith loves working with the many different people who come into his office daily. “It’s a numbers job, but it’s also a people job, and the people are certainly more interesting,” Smith said. Collecting bills is one part of Smith’s job, which he admits he doesn’t relish.
There is one less position in his office thanks to the decision to turn over city tax collections to the county Tax Commission in 2000. Of course, his office still has to collect business license fees, which can sometimes be a chore.
Smith also serves as secretary to the Alcohol Control Commission, which supervises the licensing every establishment that sells beer, wine, distilled spirits, or liquor within the city.
Another important aspect of Smith’s job is that he manages the municipal elections for the city, from qualifying the candidates for the City Commission and the Rome Board of Education.
When Smith is not in the office, he enjoys anything to do with cars, motorcycles, or guns. He’s also pretty good on the golf course, which is good because oversight of the city’s Stonebridge Golf Course falls under his position.
The role of City Clerk has only been handled by seven people over the last century, and Smith said he has no plans to retire any time soon. He loves Rome, and he loves what he does.