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Laughter, applause, tears for Elliott, Plummer

Surprise luncheon honors outgoing Franklin County Commissioners

Surprise luncheon honors outgoing Franklin County Commissioners

December 04, 2007

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - About 400 of their closest friends and colleagues showed up Monday for a surprise farewell celebration for outgoing Franklin County Commissioners G. Warren Elliott and Cheryl Plummer.

For more than three terms, Elliott and Plummer have served on the Board of County Commissioners. Elliott, 52, served as an interim commissioner for nine months in 1987 and Plummer, 58, was appointed in 1994 following the death of Commissioner Dennis Zeger. Both were elected to their first terms in 1995, along with Commissioner Bob Thomas.

Since its founding in 1784, Franklin County has "never seen the same three commissioners serve for three consecutive terms," said Thomas, the one member of the board going on to a fourth term.

"I knew this day was going to come eventually," said Plummer, who recalled one of the most memorable events of almost 14 years on the board - county employees eating pizza while crossing Ralph Nader's name off 84,000 ballots when the consumer advocate was ruled ineligible to be on Pennsylvania presidential ballots in 2004.

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"Not only did we solve a problem, but we had a great deal of fun doing it," she said.

"The question I keep getting asked is what's next, and I think you all deserve an answer to that," Elliott told the crowd at the Orchards Restaurant about life after politics.

"Good morning," he said. "Welcome to Sheetz. Pump four is on."

Farewells come with going away presents and Plummer's was a 6-foot eagle carved from the trunk of a tree felled to make way for the county's Agricultural Heritage Center, said Human Resources Director John Aguirre. The center, still under construction, will be dedicated in Elliott's honor, with a bronze plaque bearing his likeness, said Planning Director Phil Tarquino.

The more than 11,000 acres of preserved farmland in the county is equal to the land occupied by Chambersburg, Waynesboro, Greencastle, Mercersburg, Orrstown and Mont Alto, said Elliott, a member of the Pennsylvania State Farmland Preservation Board.

There were proclamations from the Pennsylvania Senate, the lieutenant governor and mayor of Chambersburg read during the luncheon, something Thomas said he could not match.

"I wish I could give you a proclamation, but a single commissioner can't do that," he said.

"This is a bittersweet time, because we've had some very good years together," said Thomas. Commissioners-elect David S. Keller and Bob Ziobrowski also were on hand.

Former county commissioner and acting Chambersburg Mayor Samuel W. Worley joked that he wanted to present them with the keys to the city, "but in my short term as mayor I have not been entrusted with the keys."

He noted they will join a "Hall of Fame" of former commissioners, a list that includes just Worley, Fred Rock and Ed Beck Jr. among the survivors.

"I didn't realize what a big deal this was until Mike Ross walked in early," Warden John Wetzel, the master of ceremonies, said of the famously tardy president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.

Ross said he has known both commissioners for many years "and candidly, I've never really been impressed."

"That ought to be a best seller," Ross said of Elliott's plans to possibly write a book. He said it might also be used as "a cure for insomnia."

"Nobody has represented this county better than these two individuals," Ross said, turning serious.

County Administrator John Hart said the commissioners have taken 6,000 official actions, 11,000 personnel actions and passed 160 proclamations in a dozen years. They also presided over 20 elections in which more than half a million people voted, he said.

"Not only is your hair in place, but Warren is the calmest person under stress," Hart said, referring to Elliott's imperturbable hairstyle.

When Tarquino asked how it handled on a blustery day like Monday, Elliott said, "I can go 40 to 50 mph."

"Every decision she makes, part of that decision is based in care," Hart said of Plummer.

"To quote Jimmy Stewart, 'It's a Wonderful Life,'" Elliott said. "I honestly do feel like the richest man on the Earth."

Photos by Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Commissioner Cheryl Plummer is acknowledged at a Monday farewell luncheon for her and G. Warren Elliott.

Franklin County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott is comforted as he wipes tears at a farewell luncheon for him and Cheryl Plummer.

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