County Faces: Don Chasse of Madawaska
Donald Chasse has become a strong leader in his community of Madawaska, where he has served as a selectman, school committee member and Scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts, and held a seat on nearly 10 other committees.
Chasse said it all started when his family bought a house in Madawaska when he was 5 years old. He received his entire public education within the Madawaska school system, growing up in a house run by his mother, who he said was the matriarch, and a father who was a disabled WWII veteran.
“Mom was the enforcer of the house,” Chasse said. “She molded us — me and my brothers and sister — into who we are. She often talked about giving of oneself.”
Chasse took that philosophy with him through school and into his life’s work.
“When I graduated high school, I didn’t know 100 percent what I wanted to do, so I decided to go to college,” he said.
Chasse went to the University of Maine at Fort Kent for a while before he transferred to the University of Maine at Farmington, where he decided to major in geography and thought he might want to become a teacher.
Those plans were halted, however, when his father passed away in 1973 and his mother was left alone in their family home. Shortly after that, Chasse moved back to the Valley and decided to pursue a career in teaching “eventually.”
He began by long-term substitute teaching. Though he enjoyed it, it wasn’t enough and carried no benefits. In 1977, a job opened up at the Water District in Madawaska. After going up against seven other applicants, the town chose him for the job. He took it, at first thinking he’d look into teaching again someday.
“But I never looked back,” he said. “This became my long-term goal, to become superintendent of the Water District.”
In 1996, the superintendent retired, and Madawaska passed the baton to Chasse.
“Forty-two years later,” he said, “I am still here.”
Chasse said one of his favorite parts of the job is getting to know the people in the community. “My involvement has always been toward the community,” he said. “When I was growing up, sports were kind of important to me, so I coached some Little League. I’ve always wanted to do something, to be part of something.”
He has served on various committees and boards, including the school committee for 15 years, the Boy Scouts for about 10 years, and LaValle Credit Union. When a seat opened on the board for the Maine Road and Water Association, Chasse joined to represent Aroostook County. He served for 15 years, at least three of those years as board president.
Then, he said, he had an “inkling” to become a member of the Madawaska Board of Selectmen, which he did. He served several terms and is currently in his final three-year stint.
“Community, serving, giving back to Madawaska, a place I love dearly, has always been in my head. It’s always been something I want to do, and I have great support at the house,” Chasse said, adding that his wife is a strong advocate for his public service.
When he took three years off from his selectman post, Chasse said he would watch the Channel 16 footage of the board meetings. His wife told him, “Stop complaining and get back on the board.”
He did just that, though said his current term would be his last. He also plans on retiring from the Water District either at the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020 to spend time with his family and grandkids.
“I’ve enjoyed every day I’ve worked here,” Chasse said. “There isn’t a morning that I have gotten up and said, ‘I don’t want to go to work.’”
Aside from his grandchildren, Chasse said he feels his biggest accomplishment was his service as a selectman.
“When I got the job, I said to myself , ‘This is something I need to take very seriously, and do a good job at, because the trust from the voters and the citizens of this community fall in the hands of the board members,’ and I’ve appreciated their faith in me, but I also said I am going to do the best job I can,” he said. “I can leave with my head held high and say I’ve done the best that I can while I was there.”