Late selectman is second Townsend Award winner

Published in the October 17, 2018 edition


LYNNFIELD — The Board of Selectmen honored late Selectman Al Merritt’s achievements and accomplishments while presenting the second Daniel Townsend Award for Excellence to his family on Oct. 10.

The ceremony included members of the Merritt family as well as former Selectmen Bob MacKendrick, Bob Whalen and David Miller. Former Finance Committee and current Strategic Planning Committee member David Basile and former St. Maria Goretti pastor Rev. Tom Powers also attended the ceremony.

Selectmen Chairman Dick Dalton noted the board established the Townsend Award last year.

“Each year, the board will select and honor one individual who exemplifies excellence in the area of volunteerism,” said Dalton. “It is awarded to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding dedication and commitment to the town of Lynnfield and has dedicated their time and talents to make Lynnfield a better place for all of us to live in.”

Dalton noted the award is named after the town’s native son, Daniel Townsend, who perished on April 19, 1775 in the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

“When we consider our significant heritage, it is truly fitting we name this award for excellence after an individual who most exemplified excellence in the pursuit of liberty,” said Dalton. “Daniel Townsend left his wife and children to defend the cause of liberty on April 19, 1775. He answered that faithful call and became one of the very first Americans to give their life to help establish our nation and secure liberty for future generations.”

THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN presented the Townsend Award to late Selectman Al Merritt’s family on Oct. 10. From left, Selectmen Chairman Dick Dalton, Cecilia Merritt Bailey, Beverly Merritt, Kevin Merritt, Julie Merritt, Amy Kumpel, Rev. Tom Powers and Selectman Chris Barrett. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

Dalton said Merritt was “a very special man.” He said the late selectman attended St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., where he was a star baseball pitcher.

“Al was chosen as the All-Metro High School player of the year by The Washington Post,” said Dalton. “He then went on to attend Georgetown University on a four-year baseball scholarship, where he excelled as a student-athlete.”

After graduating from college, Dalton said Merritt took the CPA exam.

“If anyone is familiar with the four-part exam, there are not that many people who pass all four parts in one sitting,” said Dalton. “Not only did Al pass all four parts, he earned the medal for the highest proficiency in the state of Virginia.”

Dalton said Merritt was president of Investors Mortgage Company and later became the chief financial officer of Liberty Financial Companies.

“If I stopped right here, one would have to say Al was a very successful man,” said Dalton. “But those accomplishments don’t even begin to provide us with the complete picture of Al. He was a devoted husband to Beverly. He was the loving father of Charles, Mark, Kevin, Brian and Julie, and was friends to so many of us.”

Dalton said what “really set Al apart was his lifelong commitment to give back to the institutions and places that were an important part of his life.”

“Al served on St. John’s Board of Trustees as a member from 2000 and served as chairman from 2009 until his passing,” said Dalton. “He was only the second lay person in the history of the school to serve as chairman. He also was a member of the Georgetown University Boards of Regents and Board of Governors. He served as a member of the Emmanuel College Advisory Board. He didn’t just serve in name-only as a board member for these organizations. He was a real contributor who spent countless hours trying to make a difference.”

Dalton said Merritt’s “greatest impact was right here in Lynnfield.” He said Merritt was very active at St. Maria Goretti Church.

“Al served as a longtime member of St. Maria Goretti’s Finance Council,” said Dalton. “He was a trusted advisor and mentor of financial issues. He was a member of the Capital Development Committee, which was instrumental in refurbishing the parish hall; providing an air conditioning system for the church; and improving handicap access.”

Dalton noted Merritt served two terms on the Board of Selectmen and served two stints on the Finance Committee in the 1980s and 1990s.

“(Merritt) was outstanding in both capacities,” said Dalton.

Dalton said Merritt served as the School Building Committee’s chairman during the educational facility renovation projects of the early 2000s.

“Al was appointed chairman of the School Building Committee when the cost of the project exceeded the amount of funds appropriated,” said Dalton. “He took the lead on this troubled project and successfully advocated for the second round of financing for the building of the new middle school. Today, we have four school buildings in town that provide our students with a first-class environment to learn.”

Dalton said Merritt served as the Economic Development and Housing Advisory Committee’s chairman before he was elected to the Board of Selectmen.

“Al quarterbacked the development of the plan to expand the town’s commercial tax base in order to maintain and expand town services and address infrastructure issues while relieving residential taxpayers from Proposition 2 1/2 overrides,” said Dalton.

“But the most significant part of the plan provided an increase in the town’s affordable housing units, thereby allowing Lynnfield to control its own destiny by meeting the state’s mandates. It allowed the town to reject hostile developments under Chapter 40B. If that plan were not developed and implemented, the character of the town would have been forever changed by developers being able to ignore local zoning restrictions. In effect, he saved the character of the town that we all cherish.”

While serving as the Economic Development and Housing Advisory Committee’s chairman, Dalton said Merritt played a key role in the development of MarketStreet Lynnfield.

“Al was a force behind the negotiations with National Development and the approval of the MarketStreet development including the donation of the land for the King Rail Golf Course, setting aside open space and securing the site of the L.I.F.E. Colonial Village housing development,” said Dalton.

In closing, Dalton said Merritt helped make Lynnfield a better place.

“When you look back at what Al meant to this community, you can’t help but conclude that we are a better community because we were blessed to have had Al Merritt give so much of himself to the town and the people he loved,” said Dalton. “We will be forever indebted to Al Merritt.”

After Dalton concluded his remarks, the late selectman was given a round of applause by the meeting’s attendees. Dalton and Selectman Chris Barrett presented the Merritt family with a plaque that will be hung in Town Hall.

“On behalf of the Merritt family, this is such a tremendous honor,” said Kevin Merritt. “My dad loved Lynnfield. He absolutely adored this town. He was so committed to it. He set an example for all of us, and he set a very high bar for us kids to follow as well. We are truly honored and very grateful. God bless Lynnfield.”

After Kevin Merritt concluded his remarks, he was given a round of applause.