By Rich Pollack
LANTANA — Soon after she moved into a sixth-floor apartment with an ocean view at the Carlisle Palm Beach five years ago, former Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Jacqueline “Jackie” Winchester became an active member of the assisted living facility’s residents association.
Mrs. Winchester, who was 91 when she died April 24 after treatment for a form of blood cancer, was president of the association, serving as a liaison between the Lantana facility’s residents and management and coordinating the Christmas drive to provide gifts for staff members.
That came as no surprise to family members and to those who worked with Mrs. Winchester — Palm Beach County’s first female elections supervisor — while she headed the elections office from 1973 to 1996.
“If you asked those who worked with her, they would say they could always count on her,” said her son Jon Winchester.
A former Belle Glade middle school and high school English teacher who was a member of the group that started the Belle Glade library, Mrs. Winchester was a leader in the county’s League of Women Voters and was well-respected for her integrity and for her finely honed organizational skills.
“She knew how to get things done,” said Theresa LePore, who succeeded Mrs. Winchester when she retired after being re-elected to the office six times. “She was detail-oriented and always looked for ways to be more efficient.”
Maintaining the integrity and professionalism of the office was a priority for Mrs. Winchester, who focused on the task at hand while maintaining neutrality.
“She was a strong woman who was very ethical,” Jon Winchester said. “She was someone who always wanted to do the right thing. She stood by something when she believed in it.”
Although soft-spoken with a slight hint of a Southern drawl, Mrs. Winchester could be tough, using a no-nonsense approach to achieving a goal.
Her decades running elections in Palm Beach County began when Mrs. Winchester’s predecessor, Horace Beasley, died shortly after being elected to a third term. She was appointed by then-Gov. Reubin Askew.
At the time, all of the election records and registrations were kept on paper, with names handwritten and stored in leather-bound books.
After Mrs. Winchester arrived, bringing a refreshing hands-on approach to the role, she began transforming the office and modernizing it.
“Her legacy is bringing the office from paper to computer,” LePore said. “It was 1,000% better than what it was.”
An avid traveler, Mrs. Winchester continued to put a priority on fair elections — even after she retired — serving as an observer in Albania, Kosovo and Ukraine.
Her decision to leave her home of 47 years and move to an assisted living facility came after she was diagnosed with macular degeneration and knew her vision would fail. Leaving Lake Clarke Shores and moving to a coveted top-floor apartment at the Carlisle was her choice, according to Jon Winchester.
“She made all of her own decisions right until the end,” he said. “She wanted to be in control.”
Mrs. Winchester is survived by her four children, Jim Winchester (Jane), Jon Winchester (Melynda Melear), Sterling Winchester (Julie) and Melissa Winchester (Andy Winer), as well as seven grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life was held on May 8 at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Palm Beach, and another celebration of life was held at the Carlisle later in the month.