After more than seven minutes of listening to his supervisor, Rick Mills, say nice things about him, Maine Game Warden Reggie Hammond tried to silence his sergeant.
“That’s enough,” a clearly embarrassed Hammond said. “That’s good.”
As it turned out, it wasn’t good enough: Mills spoke for another four minutes before finally stepping aside and letting the state’s 2007 Warden of the Year accept a well-deserved standing ovation.
Hammond, who works out of Rangeley, was among several wardens honored during the Maine Warden Service’s annual awards luncheon in Winslow. The bulk of the honors are a result of voting by the state’s wardens. Hammond was the 33rd Warden of the Year recognized, following a tradition that began in 1975.
Mills was sometimes close to tears while describing a model warden, and took frequent breaks to compose himself. He kept his sense of humor, however, admitting before, during and after his lengthy remarks that he’d rather have cut his comments short, but Hammond deserved better.
“If I’d know that I had to read [the nomination letter aloud], I wouldn’t have written so much,” Mills said during the ceremony.
After the microphone was turned off, however, he was still willing to heap praise on Hammond.
“He deserved the award 10 years ago,” Mills said of the 17-year Warden Service veteran. “We have some people who are exceptional for two or three years or exceptional for 10 years. We have very few people who are exceptional for their whole career. Very, very few. And Reggie Hammond is one of them.”
Mills described a top-notch warden who performs all aspects of the job well, and who makes a positive impact on the state 12 months a year.
“He’s a true game warden. What you see is what you get,” Mills said. “He’s hard-core, and he’s right back to the roots of what we stand for.”
Hammond didn’t really enjoy being singled out.
“I was uncomfortable,” Hammond said. “The whole event totally caught me off-guard. As a game warden, you don’t usually get caught off-guard, but I have to say, I was totally caught off-guard.”
But Hammond said he did appreciate the fact that his peers thought he deserved the award. The fact that his friend and mentor nominated him made the honor even more special.
“It really meant a lot to me. Rick and I are good friends and Rick, like I tried to say before I started getting emotional, really has helped me mold my career,” Hammond said.
Warden Lt. Adam Gormely, an Orrington native who now works out of Gray, said receiving honors based on peer voting makes for a meaningful awards program.
“When they’re awarded, it’s a reflection of what we think as a group, rank checked at the door,” Gormely said. “The concept of [the awards program] is to promote what we do, educate the people who are here, but mostly, to recognize the good work that game wardens have done over the past year.”
The awards luncheon is normally held during the spring, but due to some scheduling conflicts was pushed back this year.
Among the other award-winners:
- The supervisor of the year award to Wdn. Sgt. Christopher Simmons.
- An exemplary service award was presented to Wdn. Edward Christie, who helped save a man’s life by performing CPR after the man had choked and collapsed while eating at a local restaurant.
- An exemplary service award to Wdn. Scott Thrasher and Wdn. Rick Clowry, whose tenacious pursuit of a seemingly baseless anonymous tip resulted in 25 cases of illegal hunting being filed.
- A meritorious service award to Wdn. Jeremy Judd and Wdn. Bruce Loring, who rescued a trapped woman from a car after a flash flood in York County.
- A meritorious service award to Wdn. Philip Richter, who walked across thin ice to rescue a girl who had left an Ellsworth facility and run to an island on Graham Lake.
- A meritorious service award for Wdn. Eric Blanchard and Wdn. Eric Lonergan, who helped rescue people during a flood in the town of Lebanon.
- The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators’ Marvin “Butch” Potts Memorial Award to Warden Investigator Jason Luce.
- The K-9 case of the year and the K-9 search-and-rescue incident of the year awards went to Wdn. Mark Merrifield and his dog, Aspen.
- Special recognition of Warden Specialist Deborah Palman for her efforts in building the warden service K-9 team.
- A special recognition award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to 41 wardens and an administrative staffer who helped respond to Aroostook County flooding.
- Colonel’s Award to Maj. Timothy Doyle of the Maine State Police.
- Legendary Warden: Alanson “Mickey” Noble.