June 2018 Issue
Mike and Anne Preston may be fairly new to Arkansas, but their political and charitable involvement since their arrival in 2015 has made them well-known to Little Rock officials.
by Kim Dishongh and Morgan Embry
Both born and raised in Florida, the duo met after college on the set of Anne’s job at a news station in Gainesville, Florida. Anne was interviewing Mike’s boss for a multiple-story series, and after the series finished Mike was adamant they stay in contact. Before long, the two were together.
Though they met in 2006, the couple didn’t get married until Dec. 13, 2014.
“Yeah, it took us a while to get married,” Mike says. “We chased each other all over the state. We were in Gainesville together and then she got a job in Fort Meyers, so she moved four hours away and then I got a job in Tallahassee so we were six hours apart… So, when we were finally in the same town and had been there a while I said, ‘All right, we’re going to get married now.’”
A few months after they got married, the couple was asked to move again when Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Mike as the executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
Though the couple had only visited Arkansas briefly for interviews, they decided to make the state their new home, and moved to Little Rock in April and March 2015.
“In a matter of three months we got married, bought a home and moved to a state we had never been in,” Mike says.
Though Anne had to leave her job in Florida as an anchor, she didn’t give up the profession, or the audience. Anne still does daily newscasts in Little Rock, but you won’t see her on local television stations, as her reports are sent to various states across the country.
“So, I left a job that I loved in Florida so that we could focus on his career here, but of course I tried to find something here as well,” Anne says. “At first, I looked at local news stations to see if they had any anchor positions available, because that’s what I was doing in Florida, and then I came across this company called The Media Gateway.”
In her work with The Media Gateway, Anne does six different newscasts every day in four different markets out of a Little Rock-based studio. One of those newscasts goes back to Gainesville, Florida, where Mike’s parents watch Anne every night.
When they first moved to Arkansas, Anne and Mike said they immediately got involved in charity work, which has since helped them create lifelong friendships and experiences.
Anne was co-chairman of the 2017 Woman of Inspiration event for the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas, honoring Lisenne Rockefeller, and she is involved with the Easterseals Fashion Event, as well. She and Mike, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, also recently co-emceed the Arkansas Governor’s Cup.
But the time and effort devoted to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which they got involved with last year, became especially gratifying. And it wasn’t until after the Prestons were invited to be honorees for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Breath of Life Gala, set for Nov. 3, that organizers learned the intensely personal connection that led them to the cause.
“When we were starting our family planning, I went and just wanted to get checked out. I wanted to make sure everything was OK, and everything was great except that I came back as a cystic fibrosis carrier,” says Anne.
The doctor told Anne and Mike that for this to affect any future children they may have, he would have to be a carrier, as well. The chances of that were slim – just one in 600.
The test revealed that Mike, too, is a cystic fibrosis carrier.
“We’ve really only told close friends and family about what’s going on with us,” says Mike.
Through the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, they have learned a tremendous amount about the disease, its treatments and about research and scientific advances and they have met adult cystic fibrosis sufferers who are thriving.
“Obviously, it was a lot to digest,” says Anne, noting neither she nor Mike has a family history of the disease. “But really, the first thing we both wanted to do was get involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation because that’s something we can do and that’s some tangible way that we can hopefully make a difference. Even if we may not have a child with cystic fibrosis right now, certainly it still means something very deep to us because someday we could.”
The Prestons participated in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides walk on May 19, and they will emcee the organization’s Taste of the Finest event on Aug. 17.
“We think it’s critical to give your time in any way you can but it’s also important to raise money,” says Anne. “That really can make a difference, especially with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation because they are constantly coming out with new treatments that really are extending the life expectancy of patients with cystic fibrosis and to us that means everything.”
Mike and Anne were newlyweds when they moved to Arkansas three years ago from Clearwater, Florida, where Mike was vice president of government relations at Enterprise Florida, that state’s economic development organization, and Anne was a reporter at Bay News 9.
On their first trip to Little Rock, someone picked them up from the airport and drove Mike to the Governor’s Mansion.
“I was able to sit down and really talk business with the governor and then they met Anne and her warm personality and the governor and first lady really liked her,” says Mike. “Evidently they liked us enough to invite us to move to Arkansas and take the job. We haven’t looked back. I have some lifelong friends now.”
It was on that initial visit that Anne heard from First Lady Susan Hutchinson about Woman of Inspiration.
“She started sharing with me her passion. It created a passion in me and I just knew if we came here that was something I would want to be a part of,” says Anne. “She didn’t come right out and ask me for the support, but her passion was contagious.”
Mike played a support role in Anne’s co-chairing of that event.
“I give her and the first lady and Lisenne all the credit. They really worked their tails off day in and day out to raise money and I saw all the meetings she went to – multiple meetings every single week,” says Mike. “You look at it from the outside but until you go to an event and you see it and you hear the stories and it’s really touching and you understand why they have all those meetings and why they have the drive that they do because it really is impactful to people.”
Mike travels extensively for work, but when he’s in town he enjoys playing basketball, tennis and golf with the governor.
“A lot of times when I’m out of town I’m with the governor, so the first lady is here and she knows Anne is here. They’ll get together and go have tea or hang out and do something. It’s nice to have that relationship, that connection,” Mike says.
He and Anne look forward to emceeing the Governor’s Cup together each year.
“There are a couple of companies in Arkansas that are successful businesses that literally started at this competition,” he says. “One of the companies that won the competition this year has come to our team and talked about an application for an investment tax credit. They’re in a fundraising round right now and they’re very promising.”
The event allows the public to witness Anne’s bubbly personality mingling with Mike’s more reserved tones.
“We play off each other,” Mike says. “We are definitely each other’s biggest fans.”
Anne will continue volunteering with Woman of Inspiration, Easterseals and other organizations, including various animal rescue organizations, one of which connected her with her “furry baby,” a Pomeranian-mix named Reagan. But she expects much of her focus to be on cystic fibrosis.
“While I’m involved in many charities and they all are special to me, this one really resonates with me because of our deep personal connection,” she says. “They say that one day the ‘CF’ will stand for ‘Cure Found’ and I really do believe that because of the efforts that are underway throughout the country and how science is advancing so rapidly as well.”