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Interviewee: Senator Charlie Albertson

Role: Retired Senator, North Carolina Assembly

Date of Interview: November 18, 2014

Collection: Preserving the Working Waterfront

Click on the link below to view the interview.

Senator Charlie Albertson Interview

Abstract: Senator Charlie Albertson was interviewed about the passage of the Waterfront Access and Marine Industry Fund which protected waterfront parcels of real estate for commercial and recreational uses. Senator Albertson spoke of being raised in a family dedicated to public service and possessing deep roots in the agriculture industry. He explains how he learned from his colleagues the value of protecting access for the commercial fishing industry and the value of preserving North Carolina's fish houses.

Transcript: I grew up here in Eastern Duplin County, born in 1932 right at the height or––in the Depression. And grew up on a farm, five brothers and three sisters, and I learned how to crop tobacco and tend to hogs and do farming chores. Our father was very much involved in the life of our community. He only went to the fourth grade; in later years he served on the School Board in Duplin County. So he was always doing things in the life of the community and that's always been a big part of our life you know. You know giving back to the community.

I had served 22 years and you know it was quite an honor to serve all those many years and I wouldn't take anything for my experience. I had the opportunity to learn so much about the State, just like the beach and the fisheries you know for example. But I came to value that industry and others across the State.

Well I came––when I came to the Senate from the House, Senator Basnight who is someone I love and respect so much who has been such a great positive force for the State, he decided and I was so honored to be named Chairman, Chairperson of the Senate Agriculture Environment and Natural Resource Committee. And of course being Chair of that Committee I became Co-Chair of the Seafood and Aquaculture Study Commission.

That was a challenging time; you'd try to find out battles between it, you know the swine agriculture and environment. But I found that almost equally as challenging you know when I got into the fisheries resource and started talking about that because I learned there was a lot of contention between the commercial interests and––versus the recreational folks, and the question was and I guess still remains today is who is going to have access to the resource?

And we could see you know over time and happened very quickly that access to the beach would disappear because of the building that went on during that time. We had to try to address that––we could but we saw some of the sites that had been so important you know as a part of our culture and our history and the social aspects of that––we saw a lot of that disappearing. I quickly learned, too, the importance of preserving some places for public access and trying to find some money, some ways we could set aside some resources to keep some of our fish houses in place, you know for the various cultural, social issues.

Well apparently it's been very successful. I recall the hearings we had and in Morehead City we had a hearing over on Manteo and maybe we had one in Newbern. But we had several hearings relative to this issue. Well we heard from the public and, and gained some better insight and better educated about you know what was going on. And if I remember correctly we came up with $20 million that was set aside you know for this purpose. But we had for the most part, we had––people were onboard. They understood through these hearings we had and discussions we had in Committee. They understood the importance of the fisheries and preserving that access and those fish houses was a big part of who we are that we wanted to maintain that for not only for ourselves but for future generations.

I think what we did was the right thing, making sure that we have access and have these places preserved. They are of great value I think for people to see these fish houses for example and know how it was to some extent, although there's been a lot of growth and it's changed a lot. But those places play an important role in our culture and our social life and we want to preserve that. It's hard work. Fishing is hard work and fishing can be dangerous. Farming is hard work. It requires somebody who I think really loves what they do. They must love the land and the sea.

That was a great honor for me to serve in that role. And hopefully I added something in that regard, but, but to learn all of that and find out––find ways that you can find people to have––who have the same interests and know the value of those entities we're talking about and are willing to make those things happen that preserve this place for future generations.

This collection is part of an effort to document oral histories that focus on the application of specific tools for sustaining working waterfronts across the country. To learn more about the Preserving the Working Waterfront Oral History project, click here.