NORWAY – With only four towns reporting as of 11 p.m., political newcomer Charlene Chase of Bethel had a narrow lead over 14-year incumbent Steve Merrill of Norway in the race for county commissioner for District 1.

With tallies from 12 towns and two unorganized territories needed to declare the winner, Chase took an early lead over Merrill with the towns of Bethel, Hanover and Stow while Norway reported in favor of Merrill.

“I worked Bethel hard. It’s nice to have that spread,” said Chase, of the 1,061 to 499 lead she had over Merrill in her hometown of Bethel, where she has lived for the past three years after moving from Norway.

Norway gave Merrill, a Norway resident, the edge with 1,540 votes against Chase’s 1,083 votes.

“I knew Norway was important. I knew it had 2,500 votes,” Chase said of her campaign efforts in that town.

Merrill could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

In the other results, Hanover gave the edge to Chase with 96 votes over Merrill’s 73 votes and Stow went with 101 for Chase and 83 for Merrill.

Chase, who worked for Community Concepts in Paris for several decades and retired three years ago, said she decided to try her first political campaign to get back to working with the public. “It was something I wanted to do for a while,” she said. “I wanted to work locally and get back in public service.”

“I worked hard and wanted it,” she said in a telephone interview as she waited for results from the Norway home of Roy Gedat shortly before 11 p.m. “People have known me for a long time. They know I can perform, and they know I am accountable.”

Chase said she began her campaign last spring going throughout the county attending various events and raising about $6,500. Much of the money was targeted in the larger towns such as Norway.

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