By MyFM's Rick Michaels - A Milford man, who started working in the Senate clerk's office in 1973 and has guided the office and the Senate as clerk since 2003, plans to retire at the end of the year, capping off a near half-century State House career. 69-year old William Welch says he’ll retire after presiding over the Dec. 31 joint session of the House and Senate. Welch told the Statehouse News Service in his office yesterday morning, he wants to spend more time with his wife, who has already retired. Welch first came to work at the State House in 1970 as an office page and started full-time in 1973 and he has worked in the clerk's office during the tenures of nine Senate presidents. By rule, the clerk is the official parliamentarian of the Senate and presides over the joint sessions with the House of Representatives. But in practice, the office functions as the central nervous system of the Senate, organizing thousands of bills and amendments, advising the president or any other senator on the chamber's rules and mechanics, maintaining a historical trove of Senate information and making the workings of the Senate accessible to the public. In January 2004 the Senate voted unanimously to make Welch the body's permanent clerk after former State Senator Richard Moore of Uxbridge nominated Welch to the post. During sessions, Welch stands on the rostrum aside the president and helps direct the proceedings on the floor. His voice and presence are familiar to those who follow the Senate in the State House or via the web stream.