BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Charlotte McLaughlin has been an election poll worker since the days of Bossy Gillis, and if the name of that long-ago mayor doesn’t ring a bell, try President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The veteran warden from Ward 1 was honored at City Hall yesterday for 60 years of aiding voters at the polls.
The state Legislature passed a special resolution honoring her lengthy commitment, and state Rep. Mike Costello, D-Newburyport, and state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, delivered a copy and lauded her in the chambers of City Council for her decades of service.
But she’s not retiring. The 88-year-old Oak Street resident said she plans to work this autumn when the city holds municipal elections.
“I’m surprised they had this special gathering,” said McLaughlin, a Newburyport native who went to local schools. “I thought it was going to be just a few people, and it’s a whole room full.”
Friends, family members and local officials were on hand for the reading of several declarations of appreciation and gratitude.
A state resolution noted that she had “skillfully, diligently and cheerfully presided over 140 federal, state and city elections.”
It added that she has “overseen 14 presidential elections from Dwight D. Eisenhower to President Barack Obama, and 29 mayor elections from the legendary race between Henry Graf and Andrew J. ‘Bossy’ Gillis to the present.”
(Gillis was a long-time and controversial mayor who lost to Graf in 1954. Gillis served four one-year mayoral terms in the 1930s and he was again mayor in 1958-59. He owned a filling station on Water Street, now long gone, and was known as an irascible character who reportedly sometimes used his fists to punctuate his political points.)
“We’re pleased to honor you, today,” Costello said. “Your dedication is part of the reason our voting system works here and you’ve done a great job in Ward 1 year after year.”
McLaughlin cracked, “Yeah, but I got paid for it.”
Costello added that her dedication is an inspiration to new generations of citizens who might want to work at the polls.
“Good, can you get me into the pension system now?” she countered.
City Clerk Richard Jones said that McLaughlin had been one of his most punctual and dedicated poll workers.
“She would arrive early in the morning, and knowing that she was at the polling place to get things organized, I could travel out to Plum Island (also part of Ward 1) and get that going,” Jones said. “You could count on Charlotte.”
Mayor Donna Holaday, who provided her with a resolution from the city, praised McLaughlin for long and meritorious service, and noted that she is among the most popular wardens among police assigned to monitor polling stations.
McLaughlin declined to speculate on what might have been the most contentious election over the years, but remarked, “It went smoothly because I had a good team working with me.”
Daughters Marcia Jackson of Kennebunk, Maine, and Karen Eaton of Newburyport attended, as did colleagues from her polling assignments including Jenny Jancewicz, Mabel Jancewicz, Stanley Jancewicz, Debbie Knight and Donna Volpone.
The state resolution, signed by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, said, “Throughout her tenure, Charlotte McLaughlin has demonstrated dedication, tireless effort and integrity, while maintaining polling site, counting ballots by hand late into the night, and understanding hanging chads.”