~ Merl Eoff ~
“I love this town,” she spoke the phrase reverently, yet with tenacious conviction, imbuing the veracity of an oath.
From these unassuming beginnings, Merl grew into the role of professional woman. Married for 40+ years to Bill Eoff, the couple raised three daughters, Erika, Myra and Monica, and are grandparents six times over. Yet being a business woman engaged in a multifaceted career came as naturally, it seemed, as did hugging a grandchild and being a homemaker.
A progressive and independent thinker, “Miss Clinton of 1963” adopted the “public service” ideals of pageantry with sincerity and panache. Feeling it more of a duty than a privilege, she “took her turn” serving three terms, “one for each daughter,” as President of the Clinton PTA.
As the “Silver Anniversary Poultry Cooking Queen,” a title she earned competitively, Merl toured Arkansas as a spokesperson for the Arkansas poultry industry. “I learned how to be a good public representative of something I cared about,” she recalled of the experience.
In addition to her years of public service as the City of Clinton's Recorder/Treasurer, Merl has given her time and talent to the community by chairing the American Heart Association, as treasurer for the Van Buren County Library, as president of the Clinton Business and Professional Women, and as president of the Jaycettes, having earned acknowledgement for her dedicated volunteerism from the State of Arkansas.
Founder of the Friends of Miss Rodeo Arkansas, Merl led the statewide fundraising parade which enabled rodeo pageantry winners to cover sometimes extraordinary travel and personal appearance costs related to representing the “wholesome family values” inherent to the rodeo community at regional and national events.
“I’ve always been the type of person that, when you need money and you don’t have it, you find a way to earn it,” she said of her approach to the challenge, noting that a mainstay of her annual non-profit fundraising endeavor was the production of an income generating dinner-dance. “You have to give if you want to receive,” she smiled, commenting that you also have to be good at balancing the books.
Merl’s skill with accounting, networking, administration, connecting with people, sharing information and public relations proficiency, blossomed in commercial directions as the long-term ownership and successful management of Furniture Mart, Gifts Galore, and SS Western Wear in Clinton.
Her longstanding service as Chair of the Van Buren County Chapter of the American Red Cross made her responsible for coordinating relief services throughout Clinton and surrounding communities during the devastating 1982 flood and also after the tornado struck Southside.
In 2008, when a killer tornado struck at the heart of Clinton, Merl's own home was demolished, however she worked through the tragedy.
And her election as City of Clinton Clerk in 2000, beyond vesting her with the standard Recorder/Treasurer responsibilities incumbent to the post, made her a key player in the reorganization of city recordkeeping and the transitioning of city offices to their present location.
“The years I served brought many changes that were requested by the citizens,” Merl, now retired from public life, reflected on her work with the International Institute of Municipal Clerks Association and service on the mentor committee of the Arkansas City Clerks, Recorders and Treasurers Association. “And my priority continues to be serving the community, my neighbors, friends and family."
At right, Merl Eoff (on the right), was instrumental in coordinating the plethora of activities that culminated as the 125th Anniversary Celebration of the City of Clinton, at festivities held August 14, 2004.
“You give up a lot of personal time doing public service,” Merl reflected. “You have to be totally dedicated to keeping the older values that we all strive for alive. And you have to want to promote your community. The love of it has to be in your heart.”