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Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stepped down as chairman of the board of ZCMI Wednesday during the department store chain's annual meeting, ending two years service as chairman, 21 years as a director and 45 years in the retail business.

Richard H. Madsen, president and chief executive officer, takes on the additional duties of chairman.In January, the church's First Presidency issued a statement saying that because of increasing responsibilities of church leaders worldwide, it was suggesting that general authorities step down from membership on corporate boards, public and private, including those of church-owned companies.

To avoid disruption, it was suggested that the board resignations not be made until the annual meetings of the companies involved. Elder Perry's resignation from the ZCMI board was in response to that message.

Elder Perry told shareholders he wanted to conclude his board tenure on a high note but wasn't sure it would happen until ZCMI's 1995 Christmas sales season was concluded.

"Christmas saved our lives. It kept us out of the red," he said, as fiscal 1995 sales came in nearly $10 million higher than 1994's.

Elder Perry cautioned that the future won't be "an easy road" for ZCMI as department stores will continue to come under pressure from a variety of competitors. He noted that many of the discount retailers will emphasize in their advertising that their prices "beat the department stores."

"Why pick on us? Because we're the leaders," he said. "We can stand by 128 years of service as a regional department store chain."

Elder Perry said ZCMI must leverage its local focus to its advantage. "We must do a better job than our competitors of providing service for our customers, our neighbors."

Madsen praised Elder Perry's leadership and insights during his many years of service to ZCMI. "We took delight in his expertise, and I know he'll be looking over our shoulder" in years to come, Madsen joked.

In recognition of his service, Madsen presented Elder Perry with a portrait of the outgoing chairman and a large Waterford crystal bowl signed by the master cutter.