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Saluting Merle Elliott's record of public service

April 07, 2004

The Hagerstown Community College Foundation doesn't call its annual tribute to a community leader a roast any longer.

The name change was especially appropriate this year, because the 2004 honoree, Merle S. Elliott, richly deserves the toast he received this past Friday.

Elliott not only founded one of the region's most prestigious accounting firms - Smith Elliott Kearns & Co. - but he also has been deeply involved in economic development and public service locally for more than 30 years.

In 1972, he became the fourth president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, which had a hand in bringing a number of high-profile, job-generating firms to the county.

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The foundation, also known as CHIEF, put together one of the first local industrial parks and succeeded in bringing in Certain-Teed Products Corp. as its first tenant.

Later, Elliott was instrumental in the negotiations that brought in Citicorp, now one of the county's largest employers.

When Fairchild closed here, Elliott was one of the members of the Maryland Development Corporation that was formed to accept the property, which eventually became Top Flight Airpark.

When Hagerstown officials needed a hand with downtown revitalization, Elliott and CHIEF arranged a plan to buy the Double T Lounge on South Potomac Street, which has been razed to make way for a new project by developer Don Bowman.

But Elliott's contribution has involved far more than local development.

He's also been general campaign chairman of the United Way of Washington County and has served on the board of Goodwill Industries, the Hagerstown YMCA and was president of the Mason-Dixon Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

In short, like his friend Mike Callas, Elliott's name has become synonymous with public service in Washington County and across the state, for that matter.

Instead of concentrating on enriching himself, Elliott made this community a better place by giving of his time and resources. It's a legacy that this community should applaud and that anyone who aspires to be a "business leader" should try to emulate.

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