Legislative bodies have always needed someone to record their
activities and handle administrative duties. The profession of chief clerk
dates back to 1363 when Robert de Melton was Clerk of the House of Commons. The
first clerk in the United States dates back to 1619 when John Twine was Clerk of
the House of Burgesses in the Colony of Virginia. Today, the legislative bodies
in every state have a record-keeping and administrative officer referred to
either as a "Chief Clerk" or "Secretary".
In Wisconsin, the importance of a chief clerk is recognized in the
Wisconsin Constitution which was ratified by a vote of the people in 1848. Article XIII, Section 6 of the Wisconsin Constitution states that "the elective
officers of the legislature, other than the presiding officers shall be a chief
clerk and a sergeant at arms, to be elected by each house." The first session
of the Wisconsin Legislature convened in Madison on June 5, 1848. Daniel N.
Johnson was the first Chief Clerk to serve in the Assembly.
Since Wisconsin's admission to the union as the 30th state, 38 men
and 1 woman (Joanne M. Duren from 1983-1987) have served as Chief Clerk of the
Assembly. C.E. Shaffer had the longest tenure as Chief Clerk, serving from
1907-1933. John A. Scocos is the only person to serve as both of the elected
officers named in the Wisconsin Constitution. Mr. Scocos held the position of
Assembly Sergeant at Arms from 1995-1997 and Assembly Chief Clerk from January
2001 until he resigned on March 15, 2002.
Many chief clerks also were elected members of the Assembly at one
time, either prior to or after their service as chief clerk. However, two
Assembly Chief Clerks also served terms as Speaker of the Assembly. Norman C.
Anderson, Chief Clerk for the 1959-1960 session of the Assembly, was elected
Speaker of the Assembly in January 1972 and served as Speaker until January
1977. Robert G. Marotz was elected Speaker for the 1957-1958 session and later
served as Chief Clerk for the 1961-1962 session.
Most notably, one Assembly Chief Clerk was later
elected governor. George Wilbur Peck, well-known newspaperman, humorist and
author, served as Chief Clerk for the 1874 session. Later, in 1890 he was
elected mayor of the city of Milwaukee and, in that same year, was elected
governor of the state of Wisconsin. He served two two-year terms as governor