Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 18 June 2010 00:00
Recently, the Port News met with North Hempstead Town Clerk Leslie Gross to develop a better idea of her duties and the types of services that she offers to people in this town. There are four main services that are performed by the office of the Town Clerk: Registrar of Vital Statistics, secretary to the Town Board, Licensing, and Records Management.
As the town’s Registrar of Vital Statistics, the town clerk issues and maintains all birth and death certificates and records within the town. For birth certificates, this office records all births at the North Shore University Hospital (Manhasset Campus), meaning that every child who is born at this hospital, whether they live in the Town of North Hempstead or not, must obtain a birth certificate from the North Hempstead town clerk.
The town clerk is also the town’s Marriage Officer and she is responsible for issuing marriage certificates. Being the town’s Marriage Officer is one of Leslie’s favorite parts of the job. She said that she is happy to marry people anywhere within the Town of North Hempstead, whether it is at the beautiful park across the street from Town Hall, or a restaurant, or at home. “Every wedding is different,” Ms. Gross said. She explained that her process is to speak with the couple beforehand about their story, which she weaves into the ceremony. Ms. Gross recalled one couple who had expressed the wish to have the groom’s grandparents attend the wedding, but his grandparents were disabled and had trouble leaving the house. As a result, Ms. Gross offered to go to the grandparents’ house in Great Neck to perform the wedding, where both the grandparents were able to watch their grandson get married.
This office also acts as guardian of this information, since there are only certain people who are allowed to obtain copies of these certificates (for example, only the bride or the groom can obtain a copy of a marriage certificate). Ms. Gross said, “A person needs to prove that he or she is entitled to a document, and the office is very protective over this information.”
The town clerk acts as secretary to the town board, and it is her duty to prepare and maintain the minutes of the town board meetings. All Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests are handled by the town clerk’s office.
The town clerk issues state licenses, which include marriage, dog, fishing, and hunting. She also issues town licenses, such as taxi, towing, solid waste collection, and peddlers.
Dog licensing is very important, since a license protects a dog if it becomes lost, and helps to identify the dog and how to contact the owner. Additionally, a license ensures that the dog’s vaccinations are up to date, which helps to enforce safety within the town. For example, dogs should have rabies vaccinations, and a license shows that this has been done. Licensing fees go back to help other animals at the North Hempstead Animal Shelter – it is a key source of funding for spaying and neutering animals. Ms. Gross added that she highly supports the North Hempstead Animal Shelter and she encourages people to adopt or help the animals there.
Ms. Gross also mentioned a program through the Town of North Hempstead that allows hunters to donate venison to families in need. She said that this program has been very successful and that it has received an award for being one of the top programs in collecting venison.
The Town Clerk is the Records Management Officer for the Town of North Hempstead, meaning that she is the custodian of all records, whether active or inactive. Ms. Gross said that every record has a certain retention schedule, such as fax receipts, and that when it is time to dispose of certain records, the office shreds the document and recycles the paper to ensure a green process. Archival records are kept in a temperature-controlled vault.
Records Management also includes maintaining historical documents, such as the Dongan Patent of 1685, which documents the granting of certain property rights to the Town of North Hempstead, such as underwater rights in portions of Manhasset Bay. Leslie Gross, along with Town Historian Joan Kent, recently spoke at the 31st Conference on New York State History about this restored colonial patent, which has received a lot of attention, not just for its age and historical relevance, but because it occasionally applies to settling underwater land ownership disputes that might occur today.
Leslie Gross made it clear that she loves her work, particularly because she deals with people so much. She said that weddings and working with kids are “the icing on the cake” and she personally signs birth certificates and keeps all of the thank you letters and pictures that children have drawn for her after she has visited with them through various programs. She has been the North Hempstead town clerk since April 2007 and her office is located at 200 Plandome Road in Manhasset.