WINSLOW, Maine — In the 1980s, while Dan Carroll Jr. was trying to gain entry into the very selective Maine Warden Service, he got some advice that he took to heart.
“[The warden service major at the time] told me, ‘You have to ride with a game warden to see what they do,’” Carroll said on Wednesday, recounting his exposure to the life he would come to love. “So every day I had off [from my full-time job with the U.S. Coast Guard], I’d be staking out their vehicles [so I could ride along]. Once I got into their vehicles, you couldn’t get me out. I’d leave one game warden, he’d go in for the night, and I’d go find another one [to ride with].”
His extra effort paid off: Carroll became a deputy game warden in 1985, and a full-fledged field warden in 1987. During Wednesday’s annual awards ceremony of the 133-year-old law enforcement agency, Carroll was honored by his peers as the 2012 Maine Warden of the Year.
Carroll, 52, lives in Sebec and patrols the Brownville area.
Carroll was visibly moved after receiving the award. When asked to put into words what the award meant to him, Carroll simply shook his head and choked back tears. “I’m still having trouble with it, you know?” he said.
Carroll credited the Coast Guard with teaching a mediocre student about responsibility, and his family, including his wife, Kristina, with being his anchor.
“I learned from the best. I never did it as a job. I did it as a lifestyle. The guys who were here when I came to work in ’87, or when I came to work as a deputy [warden] in ’85, it wasn’t a job to them. You didn’t turn it off when you went home. You lived it. And that’s what I’ve done.”
The awards ceremony was a bittersweet moment for the service, which suffered through a year in which two wardens died of cancer. Wednesday’s program was dedicated to that duo, Warden Rick Stone and Warden Maj. Gregory Sanborn.
New Warden Maj. Chris Cloutier, who was sworn in on Tuesday, paid tribute to his predecessor by reading from Sanborn’s traditional script as he served as master of ceremonies.
Other awards handed out during the annual meeting included:
K-9 search and rescue case of the year: Warden Norm Lewis of Bryant Pond and K-9 Clyde; boating officer of the year: Warden Mike Pierre of Standish; National Wild Turkey Federation conservation officer of the year: Warden Josh Smith of Hartford; exemplary service awards: Warden Josh Smith, for his role as primary investigator in a Sebago Lake area hunting fatality and other deer-related work he did in 2012; Warden Rick LaFlamme of Arundel and Warden Sgt. Tim Spahr of Kennebunk, for their role in responding to an automobile crash on train tracks; Warden Mark Merrifield of Union, for his efforts enforcing game laws on Maine islands; Warden Mark Merrifield and Warden Chris Dyer of Morrill, for rescuing two hypothermic girls who had fled a correctional facility into the woods; Warden Brad Richard of Princeton, for his response, compassion and professionalism while serving as primary investigator on two drownings in Washington County; Warden Joe McBrine, for his role in rescuing a hypothermic man whose body temperature had dropped to 83 degrees by the time he was found; Wardens Wayde Carter of Marshfield, Joe McBrine of East Machias and Joey Gardner of Cooper, for their efforts to find a man who had been missing for four days. When the man was found, he had eaten all the food he could find and had just a single can of dog food left; Wardens Jonathan Parker of Hartland, Aaron Cross of Morrill, Jared Herrick of Harmony, Tom McKenney of Norridgewock and Warden Investigator Josh Bubier of Skowhegan, for their team efforts to cut down on illegal hunting activity and train their peers; Warden Bob Johansen of Millinocket, for his tenacious pursuit of violators who had wounded moose. One of those people was tracked to Iowa because they had left an empty box of a regional soda not readily found in Maine; Warden Troy Dauphinee of Shirley, for his diligence in pursuing intentional fishing law violators; Warden Cpl. Andy Glidden of Millinocket, for his role as a “use of force” team leader, and his efforts to train fellow wardens; meritorious service: Warden Sgt. Terry Hughes of Rome, for his role in responding to an automobile crash where he helped rescue a person from a burning vehicle; Maine Warden Service Association merit awards: Waldo County Assistant District Attorney Eric Walker; Washington County Sheriff’s Department deputies Adam Davis and Dennis Perry; Warden Tom Ward of Masardis; Maine Warden Service Association legendary warden award: Norman Moulton, who retired from the Maine Warden Service in 1988; supervisor of the year award: Sgt. Tim Place of Naples; colonel’s award: The oncology nursing staff at Maine General Hospital in Augusta, for their compassionate care of Warden Maj. Gregory Sanborn; warden of the year: Warden Dan Carroll of Sebec.
Special recognition was also given to April Collins, DIF&W secretary at Greenville Regional Headquarters, who was named the DIF&W’s employee of the year at a December ceremony at the Blaine House in Augusta, and retired game warden Alvin Theriault, who received a commissioner’s print in honor of the 50 dozen “Sanborn special” flies he tied. The flies were given out at Sanborn’s memorial service.