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Serafini known for helping

March 08, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

When Robert A. McKee resigned from his House of Delegates seat in mid-February, which was midsession, the Republican party needed to quickly find a replacement.

Campaigning took a back seat to expediency.

Normally, candidates for public office market themselves to voters.

This time, as outlined in the state constitution, the decision was up to the Washington County Republican Central Committee, which didn't release information about the 19 applicants, other than their names.

The constitution gave the committee and the governor a total of 45 days to fill the seat, but they did it in less than half that time.

Now that the rapid process is over and Del. Andrew Serafini has been sworn in, The Herald-Mail offers a look at the man who will represent part of Washington County for the rest of the decade.

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ANNAPOLIS -- Long before he was an entrepreneur or father or church leader or coach, Andrew Serafini made an impression with his humanity - in elementary school.

Dave Elliott, The Herald-Mail's human resources director, said a singular moment of kindness from Paramount Elementary School still means a lot to him about 40 years later.

"My mom had recently gotten remarried, so I had a new dad and a new last name, and was very excited about both ..." Elliott wrote in an e-mail. "On the first day of school, there was a mix-up with my last name, which embarrassed me horribly. I remember some of the kids in the class were giving me a hard time about that at recess that day, and I was getting pretty upset.

"When Andy noticed what was going on, he came over and matter-of-factly told them it wasn't a big deal and to cut it out, which they did immediately .... It was something he certainly didn't have to do, but was truly an act of character at an early age."

The Washington County Republican Central Committee, in choosing Serafini, called him "a man of integrity and conviction."

"We chose a prominent leader in the civic, business, and church life of (Subdistrict) 2A," the committee's announcement says. "Andy Serafini embodies what has made America great - he has had a successful business career and has invested great amounts of time in community and church affairs."

Serafini, who turns 46 today, started Serafini Financial Services in Hagerstown about 18 years ago.

He has served on the board at Grace Academy, a Christian school, and is a moderator, or presiding officer, for Maranatha Brethren Church.

He briefly played football at Shippensburg (Pa.) University, where he received a business management degree.

He went on to coach football at a western Pennsylvania high school and at North Hagerstown High School.

When his children took up soccer, he coached that, too. He said he has been Grace Academy's boys varsity coach for 13 years.

He is involved in local chapters of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Christian Business Men's Committee.

Politically, his main connection has been as campaign chairman for John F. Barr's successful run for Washington County Commissioners in 2006.

A Hagerstown native, Serafini lives north of the city with his wife, Diana Hicks Serafini. They have four children - A.J., 21; Kristin, 19; Caleb, 15; and Lauren, 13.

'Tailor-made' to serve

When McKee resigned amid a child pornography investigation and the Republican committee solicited nominations, Serafini thought to himself he might be interested.

Then, his wife called and urged him to apply. He took that as a sign.

"Because of my faith, I don't think things happen by accident," he said. "If it's God's will, it would happen."

Public service makes sense to two friends Serafini says are close to him.

Thomas Newcomer, the president of R. Bruce Carson Jewelers in Hagerstown, said Serafini is one of a few people he knows "tailor-made" to serve.

"Andy is an extremely personable guy," Newcomer said. "He's a very sincere individual, very caring, very considerate."

One specific trait he praised is Serafini's ability to retain significant details about people.

"He just really has a great gift to remember a person's needs," Newcomer said. "He tucks that away."

"Sometimes, I struggle with names, but I remember something about them," Serafini said.

Elliott, who reconnected with Serafini while they were freshmen at Shippensburg University, wrote, "Andy is one of those people who's almost universally respected, because he's sincere, he genuinely cares about others, and he makes you feel very at ease in his company."

'How can I help?'

Serafini hasn't held an elected office before, but he has professional and personal connections to members of the Washington County delegation.

In the 1980s, after a short time working for an investment firm in the Chicago area, he came back to Hagerstown. He applied for a local investment job, only to lose out to another Hagerstonian - John P. Donoghue, the current Subdistrict 2C delegate.

They later worked together when separate firms combined into one. Their children also played sports together.

Donoghue, the delegation's only Democrat, called his friend a "levelheaded guy."

Serafini's oldest son was in a government class that Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, taught at Hagerstown Community College.

"Andy is a humble person, and that will serve him well," Shank said.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, who previously served on the Grace Academy board, said Serafini coached his son.

Serafini is an investment adviser for Myers and his construction company.

"I would call him a close friend," said Myers, the delegation chairman.

Serafini said he plans to rely on the delegation for guidance during the session's fast-paced final four weeks.

For a while, as he catches up, he'll listen, particularly to what his constituents think.

"I'm not coming with any proudness or agenda," he said. "I'm coming to say, 'How can I help?'"

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