"It occurred to me, look at these people. These five people have been outstanding in their ideas, not just for Boonsboro, but for the whole county," she said.
Their actions - from founding the county's first health clinic to operating its first day nursery to growing a tiny festival into a premier event - have prompted many others to copy and build on her ideas, Burtner said.
"If you drop a rock in the water, it will make a circle and that circle will get bigger and bigger," she said. "We hope if some of you have ideas in your head for improving Washington County, please, please let your creativity shine."
The contributions of the honorees are varied, but each have touched thousands in their own way.
Barbara "Patty" Armstrong founded the county's first accredited day nursery.
The nursery scarcely could have more modest roots: It opened at Manor Church of the Brethren in 1974 with two children. But Burtner said Armstrong's tenacity and expertise built the center into a model.
Sparked by record numbers of women entering the workforce, Armstrong said the church recognized a need for a day nursery for young children. Talked into running it by the church's pastor, she described the hoops she jumped through to win state accreditation.
All employees needed 60 hours of training, she said. The state regulated tiny details, including the requirement that the nursery must have 500 wooden blocks for the children to play with.
Doug Bast, who runs the Boonsborough Museum of History, was recognized for his pioneering efforts to research and preserve the history of the county.
Burtner, a former school teacher, said Bast's enthusiasm for local history reminds her of her own passion for education.
"Doug Bast loves Boonsboro as much as I've always loved the school system. He really is Mr. Boonsboro," she said.
Bast said his love of history comes naturally.
"I think we have so many things here to be proud of," he said.
John Frye founded the Western Maryland Room at the Washington County Free Library and the McCauley lecture series.
Burtner said it was Frye's experience with people searching for links to their family's past that led him to create the Western Maryland Room at the library. He was able to centralize genealogical records in the room.
"It was one big mess for the person that was looking for it," Burtner said.
Wanda Heuer, who reinvigorated and helped grow the town's annual Boonesborough Days festival.
Heuer was a recent transplant from Rockville, Md., when she read about a new festival in Boonsboro 26 years ago. Burtner said interest in Boonesborough Days waned after the first few years.
"It wasn't what you'd call a high-class show," she said.
But Burtner said Heuer's experience as an executive at Marriott Corp. helped turn it into one of the most popular events in the county.
Heuer downplayed her role, but said crafts were evaluated and expanded.
"We attempted to get more people involved and expand the number of crafts, expand the variety of crafts. We were having too many of the same thing," she said.
John Lloyd founded the county's first health clinic in Keedysville with a $350,000 grant he won from the federal government.
When Lloyd became director of Reeders Memorial Home, he was surprised to learn there were no doctors, Burtner said. A persistent problem in rural areas, she said he set out to correct it.
The result was a health clinic in Keedysville that has been copied throughout the county.
"The whole county is taken care of, medically, because of John Lloyd," Burtner said.