A three-way race for a seat on the China Select Board was decided by one vote Tuesday, with Janet Preston defeating Christopher Hahn and Kevin Rhoades.

Preston received 415 votes to Hahn’s 414 and Rhoades’ 299, according to Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood.

Janet Preston will join the China Select Board that includes Wayne Chadwick, from left, Irene Belanger, Donna Mills-Stevens and Ronald Breton. She won Tuesday’s election by one vote to take over the seat vacated by Jeff LaVerdiere. Morning Sentinel file photo

Hapgood, who has been town clerk and registrar of voters, deputy tax collector, deputy treasurer and human resources manager 26 years, said the votes were recounted multiple times and after she explained the process to Hahn on Wednesday, he indicated he would not ask for a recount.

The extremely close vote was unusual in light of the large voter turnout, according to Hapgood, who said about 1,270 people cast ballots Tuesday.

“I did one other recount back in the late 1990s, but this is the first time I’ve had this number of ballots within one vote,” she said.

Preston said in an email early Wednesday evening that she is very honored to have been chosen by voters to serve on the Select Board.

“My plan is to listen and learn, so I can make thoughtful, informed decisions that will represent their interests and earn their trust and respect,” she said. “ I am very excited to start working.”

Hahn did not immediately return a call Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.

Preston will fill the seat vacated by Jeff LaVerdiere, who resigned in October over an issue involving firefighter stipends. That issue polarized the town, pitting municipal government against three, longtime fire chiefs.

LaVerdiere’s two-year term expires at the November 2020 election, according to Hapgood. Preston joins other Select Board members Ron Breton, the chairman, as well as Wayne Chadwick, Donna Mills-Stevens and Irene Belanger.

The U.S. Census Bureau in 2017 listed China’s population at 4,266. Hapgood said the town has  2,945 registered voters, 984 of whom are registered Republicans and 767 Democrats. Unenrolled voters total 1,134 and 59 are in the Green Party, she said.

At Tuesday’s primary, four or five 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election in November were able to register as a Republican or Democrat and voted for candidates, according to Hapgood. State law allows for them to do so.

“We had an exciting voter turnout,” Hapgood said. “We ran out of Democratic ballots and we had to copy some. We called the state at 5 o’clock and had to ask permission.”

She said she saw a lot of new voter registrants, including younger and first-time voters. A woman in her sixties who had never voted before decided that, with all that is happening in the country, she would get involved, according to Hapgood.

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