Town Determines Charlotte 'Tops'

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, May 7, 2004

Charlotte Preston, at Preston Real Estate, is being honored as former supervisor of the checklist and other volunteer efforts in Hampton.
[Staff Photo by Deb Cram]

HAMPTON -- She was the person to call if you wanted to get something done.

Whether it was raising money for a local charity, getting residents to join a committee or aiding a presidential campaign, former supervisor of the checklist Charlotte Preston did it all.

"She was referred to as the go-to person if you wanted a successful event in the area," said her husband Bob.

Preston, along with former town moderator Paul Lessard, was honored Thursday night at the Galley Hatch Conference Center at the Inn of Hampton for her dedication and service to the town.

Preston retired last year after serving more than 20 years as supervisor.

"I wanted to give someone else a chance to do it," said Preston. "It's a lot of work but very enjoyable."

Preston was born in Lawrence, Mass., but her family spent every summer at Hampton beach.

It was here where she met her husband, Bob, while she was working at Donovan and Fallon Drug Store in 1947.

The two got married five years later and had five children. They decided to make their permanent residence in Hampton.

Preston worked as a registered nurse for a few years, then joined her husband in opening Preston Real Estate, which has an office on Ocean Boulevard.

Preston decided to get involved in town politics because her husband spent 10 terms as a state senator.

"He was a senator for 20 years and I always liked the organization of it," Preston said.

The two were always involved in politics and even visited the White House on numerous occasions as guests of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Preston got into local politics when she decided to volunteer as a checker in Hampton in 1970 and worked alongside then-town moderator Al Casassa.

She decided to run for supervisor of the checklist after the death of Caroline Higgins in 1979. During her service the town's registered voters increased from 4,700 to 10,500.

A lot of people in town praise Preston for making it easier to vote.

She recalled "Years ago, to register to vote you would have to go see the supervisors, and they did it four times a year and only in the morning. So if you worked full-time, you could never register to vote."

Preston lobbied selectmen to expand the hours so residents would have more time to register to vote.

Selectmen approved it.

"It was a big deal back then," said Preston. "We wanted to make voting a pleasure. Now the law is different and residents can register with the town clerk."

Preston also pushed to expand the time the polls are open for voters.

"Polls used to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.," Preston said. "We changed them from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and now they're open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m."

She also had data from the checklist computerized.

When she was not busy making changes in Hampton, Preston took on other causes close to her heart.

After one of her friends got sick and needed a heart and lung transplant, Preston along with her friends went to the Statehouse in Concord to lobby officials to start an organ-donor program.

"The state ended up giving residents the option of signing up to become an organ donor when they get their licenses."

When the Rev. George Ham of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church was looking for a location at the beach for a soup kitchen, he called Preston.

Preston called her son, Bob, who owned a piece of property on Ashworth Avenue and C Street and asked if it could become a soup kitchen.

"He said 'Ma, anything you want'," said Preston.

The soup kitchen is open nine months of the year and feeds up to 100 people a night.

She also raised money for the cancer and heart foundations.

"One night we had a fund-raiser at the Hampton Beach Casino and raised more than $15,000," Preston said.

Her husband said if someone in town had a problem they would call his wife.

During snowstorms and holidays, Preston would invite police officers into her home and feed them. She also raised money for the mounted police.

"The barrels on the beach were driving me nuts because they were silver things with no covers and everything was rusty," said Preston. "One day I went to the then Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg and I said 'if a few people got together and bought a couple of barrels for the beach would the town maintain them?' He said yes and I got over 50 new barrels in the beach in one day."

Preston also pushed to make the beach more accessible for handicapped residents.

Although she may be retiring from holding elected office, Preston said she will always stay involved in the community.

"If they call I will help out," she said.

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