Eagle ScoutEldred Toutant left an indelible mark on Charlotte as a community leader. It’s no surprise his grandson, Austin Smith wanted, in many ways, to follow in his footsteps.

“He’s my hero,” Smith said. “He was always around while I was growing up. He was like a second father figure.”

It was Smith’s admiration for his grandfather that led him on the path to becoming an Eagle Scout, something Toutant also achieved in his lifetime. Smith moved one step closer to that goal recently, finishing an Eagle Scout project that has found a permanent home on the Courthouse Square lawn.

A year in the making, Smith secured the funding for a new sign for the museum and improved landscaping around it as well as another existing monument. Dornbos Sign donated the sign and Gale Briggs donated materials to help with the landscaping.

The idea came from longtime friend and neighbor, Julie Kimmer, director of Courthouse Square Museum.

“She approached me about the idea for a new sign because the old one looked so old,” Smith said. “She wanted the sign, but I didn’t think that would be enough for my project so I added the landscaping. I wanted it to match the work done by Ben Fulton.”

Kimmer said the new sign is more than she could have imagined.

“It’s just beautiful,” Kimmer said. “It emulates some of the doors throughout located throughout the building. I think it’s really elegant the way it turned out.”

Kimmer said the idea from the sign came from discussions the Courthouse Square board was having about the need for new signage.

“The one we had was faded and difficult to read,” Kimmer said. “I knew Austin wanted to specifically address a need with his project and the board had been talking about the need for a new sign.”

One aspect Kimmer really appreciates is that the sign clearly identifies Courthouse Square as a museum. She said she still gets people, almost daily, coming in to pay traffic tickets, adding Smith’s project is already paying dividends for Courthouse Square’s visibility.

Smith joined Boy Scouts when he was 5 years old. By 15 he set a goal of reaching Eagle Scout, the highest rank among Boy Scouts. The project took a lot of planning and organizing manpower, as most of the actual labor had to be done by others than Smith. He said he had about 30 people help on the project, including his grandpa, Jan Baxter who showed him a lot about the landscaping work.

“I learned a lot about leadership and managing a project,” Smith said.

The leadership skills gained throughout the project may serve him well as he moves forward with an education in supply chain management at Michigan State University, where he will be a freshman next fall.

His Eagle Scout application must be submitted before his 18th birthday in February, though he doesn’t plan to wait that long. Smith said he expects to have it submitted by the first of the year.

Smith is a senior at Charlotte High School, where he is a member of the National Honor Society, a Junior Rotarian, member of the Harvard Model Congress and a member of the varsity football team. He is the son of Andy and Amy Smith