WINSLOW, Maine — Dave Georgia Jr. of Milford, who earned the nickname “The Coyote” because of his dogged pursuit of intentional violators of the state’s fish and game laws, was honored by his peers at a Maine Warden Service recognition banquet on Thursday as the state’s 2011 Warden of the Year.
“It’s the award that we all dream of. I’ve been [a warden] a long time, and all of a sudden, there it is,” Georgia said, struggling to find the proper words to express his gratitude. “You just fill up with all these emotions is what happens. I’m very humbled. And very honored.”
The Winslow VFW hall was filled with wardens past and present: More than 40 retired wardens attended to show their support for current members of their extended “family.”
Awards were handed out to numerous wardens for performing their jobs in particularly noteworthy fashion.
Georgia joined the Maine Warden Service as a deputy warden in October of 1983 and attended the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in 1985. He now patrols a district close to his hometown of Old Town, covering Milford, Bradley, Greenbush, Greenfield Township, Summit Township, Township 32 and Township 39.
Maine Warden Col. Joel Wilkinson, chief of the Maine Warden Service, referred to Georgia by his nickname during his introduction. The new Warden of the Year grinned as he recounted the tale that led to the label.
“That came about because there were times where I would spend [hours on stakeouts]. One time I spent 36 hours sitting on a deer hanging in a tree [waiting for the poacher to come back],” Georgia said. “I think [retired warden] Doug Tibbetts gave me that [name].”
Georgia said becoming a warden was the perfect job for him.
“My father told me, find a job that’s not really work. Not that this isn’t hard work, but it’s something where, seasons change, so there’s always something different,” Georgia said. “Every day is a new adventure.”
Georgia was singled out for his work ethic and tenacity. Before federal minimum wage laws were applied to game wardens, Wilkinson said Georgia once apprehended 32 night hunters in a single year, and more than 100 over a five-year stretch. With new labor laws in place, Wilkinson told the assembled wardens that Georgia’s record never would be broken.
Georgia’s role as one of the founders of Maine’s Youth Fish and Game Association also was mentioned during his introduction. The warden said it was important to put such glowing praise in context.
“What I want people to remember is that I’m being recognized as the Warden of the Year, but it’s all of us, collectively [that deserve recognition],” Georgia said. “I’ve worked hard next to a lot of these guys. It’s the same with the youth club. That’s a community project with a lot of sweat and tears and blood that goes into it.”
Among the other awards given out:
• The Maine Warden Service Association Legendary Warden Award to Rodney Sirois, who died in 2006.
• Colonel’s Award to Maj. Gregory Sanborn.
• Supervisor of the Year Award to Sgt. Ralph Hosford.
• K9 Case of the Year Award to Warden Dave Chabot and K9 Ruby; K9 Search and Rescue of the Year Award to Warden Jeremy Judd and K9 Tundra.
• Exemplary Service Awards to Georgia, Bayley Grant, Dave Simmons, Jeremy Kemp, Paul Farrington, Scott Osgood, Steve Allarie and Tom McKenney.
• Meritorious Service Award to Doug Kulis.
• Maine Warden Service Association Awards of Merit to State Trooper Jessica Shorey, Angus Crosby, Lauren Crosby, Sadia Crosby, Mollie Crosby and William Shuman.