Community & Public Service
In most enterprises, operational effectiveness and success is a function of strong leadership. Marilyn Morrison has shown that, in the case of local government, such leadership need not always come from the large population centers or either major political party.
Morrison holds the distinction of being the first officeholder from a small Indiana town to head the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT). That milestone came in 2001, during the third of her eight terms as clerk-treasurer of the Town of Warren – an office she still holds as one of the longest-serving officials ever to hold elective office in a Huntington County municipality.
Marilyn Morrison was born in Warren and has lived there nearly all her life. She is one of eight siblings, and after her graduation from Warren High School she earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from Ball State University. She worked for a year with the Huntington County Community Schools before taking an executive position with the North Adams School Corporation. Though she considered pursuing a law degree, she eventually returned to Warren to work with her family’s business, the town’s two Morrison’s restaurants.
In 1989, she was approached to serve as deputy to the town’s clerk-treasurer, Lois Dysert. She agreed, then sought the top job when Dysert decided not to run for another term. Morrison was elected to the non-partisan position in 1991 and has been re-elected every four years since then, most recently in 2019. Her duties include working closely with the Town Council and Town Marshal, and managing nearly all aspects of municipal business. She works with a staff of eight to 10 people. An early and continuing focus for her has been the community’s economic development, as well as supervising operations of the Warren Municipal Electric Service and the town’s other utilities and departments. Warren is one of only 72 Indiana communities to operate its own power utility.
Early in her tenure, Morrison became active in the IACT and chaired several of the association’s committees before becoming its president in 2001. The next year, she was presented with the organization’s Russell G. Lloyd Distinguished Service Award – the first town clerk-treasurer so honored.
Mary Olson, her successor as IACT president, said this about Morrison’s performance as the organization’s leader: “She made all the difficult decisions that one goes through when one represents 3,500 elected municipal officials. She taught a lot of people grace under pressure.”
In the summer of 2001, Morrison was recognized by the Warren Chamber of Commerce with its Samuel Jones Award for her contributions to the community. That award holds special meaning for her because it is named for the town’s founder – who is also her great-great-great grandfather.
She has been instrumental in forming and sustaining the partnership now known as Huntington County Economic Development, and takes particular satisfaction in having helped establish Warren’s position as a hub of agriculture-related industry.
Though long a fixture at Warren’s Town Hall, Marilyn Morrison does not consider herself a “desk person.” Instead, she sees an important part of her current role as identifying and mentoring a new generation of leaders for the community she has so ably served.