From 1978 until his retirement in 2003, Elliott managed the general law division and legal advice for the department and was assigned to special projects, including cases that went before the U.S. Supreme Court. He personally provided legal advice to nine Secretaries of the Interior. Elliott was surprised to learn that unbeknown to him, his colleagues were referring to him as "The Mayor" of the Department. "I asked them, ‘what’s that supposed to mean?’ and I was told everyone considered me the go-to person whenever a question arose.
RECOGNITION of Elliott came from the highest levels. He is the recipient of six federal service awards, including the Department of the Interior Meritorious and Distinguished Service Awards, the Secretary of the Interior’s Silver Award, and the Presidential Meritorious and Distinguished Senior Executive Awards. Elliott was a charter member of the Senior Executive Service and is a member of the New York Bar and U.S. Supreme Court Bars.
Two Alexandria school-related involvements are especially close to his heart, including the boathouse constructed on the Potomac River for the T.C. Williams rowing teams. "The boathouse for public high school students is an unusual facility and we were able to convince the federal government it was essential to our community." Elliott was instrumental in planning a lean-to on the crew facility building to house an adult rowing program. The resulting rent money supports the youth program.
He described the day hundreds of locals "worked like a land-based machine" to pass bricks to construct the lean-to. "It was like in an old movie, passing the bricks one by one. That’s the beauty of Alexandria. Here we are sitting minutes from Washington and there’s a group of citizens caught up by community spirit."
Elliott’s proudest achievement has been leading the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, which has benefited T.C. Williams High School students for 24 years. Most of the 3,000-plus scholarships given to date are both need and merit-based. "We established the fund with some trepidation. It was something new and it was relatively rare in the United States to have financial aid in the form of a community scholarship fund. Kids either weren’t going to be able to attend college or were not going to as high a reach school as they were capable of attending."
He attributes success to a T.C. Williams teacher’s belief that there were people in the Alexandria community who would donate to a fund, and to school administrators who have done the groundwork to educate worthy scholarship candidates. To date, more than $7 million has been awarded; $700,000 in the last year. An annual telethon and a spring silent auction highlight the solicitation cycle. "It never ceases to amaze me to see the generosity of our city."
"Kids come back every day and say ‘I wouldn’t have been able to go to school if not for that $1200. I remember the time a student needed $500 for books and fees. We of course did the right thing and found a way to see that he got it."
"Some of the past scholarship recipients have become donors or served on the Scholarship Fund Board or both. We really wanted the fund to live off itself through its own new generations."
"This is why I love it and why I continue to be motivated in public service — it is community-based and you see the difference it makes in the world and the people around you."