BELFAST, Maine — After 30 years serving in local law enforcement, longtime Waldo County Sheriff Scott Story is hanging up his badge at the end of the year to spend more time training dogs and sport guiding in Aroostook County.
Story, 50, was appointed to the position in 2000 after then-Sheriff Robert Jones suffered a fatal heart attack while fighting a fire in Unity that claimed the lives of three autistic children. He has held it ever since, saying Thursday that he still enjoys coming to work each day but that it’s time to experience different things.
“I have no complaints,” he said from behind a desk crowded with policy books and paperwork at the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s been a great career, but I’m looking forward to the next adventure.”
One highlight of his career included a stint serving on the Eastern Maine Violent Crimes Task Force, created in 1995 through the U.S. Department of Justice to help Maine police fight crime across county lines. Another involved helping to start the Maine Coastal Regional Re-entry Center five years ago in the Waldo County Jail. The goal of that facility is to provide maximum support for an inmate’s successful re-entry into their home community.
Story said that center participants now statistically will have a much lower probability of ending up in the criminal justice system again.
“There’s a number of success stories, no question,” he said. “There’s some failures as well. But a lot of people coming out are going to be more productive citizens and better neighbors [than without the center.]”
Story said that he has noticed some important changes in law enforcement and Waldo County over the last three decades. When he first started his career, it wasn’t unusual for officers to spend more time and energy fighting crime than they did being husbands or fathers.
“Divorce rates were through the roof,” Story said. “Now, I think it’s different. The officers’ dedication to their families is probably a little bit better than in my day. If your whole world is law enforcement, you can tend sometimes to get a skewed view of things.”
While the city of Belfast has come a long way since the early 1980s, child abuse and domestic violence are still problems in the community and countywide.
“One thing I’ve noticed is that there’s a lot less public tolerance of it,” Story said. “People pick up the phone and call, where years ago they would have thought, ‘It’s none of my business.’”
In fact, people seem more inclined to pick up their phones and call police about many things these days.
“We are oftentimes everything to everybody,” Story said. “We get calls for anything you can imagine. ‘My kids are out of control.’ ‘My kid won’t go to school.’ We do the best we can.”
The job isn’t for everyone, he said, adding that the biggest challenge in county law enforcement is finding quality recruits. Years ago, everybody wanted to be a police officer, he said. But the requirements to be an officer have become tougher and not everyone wants to work nights, weekends and holidays.
He said he’s been lucky with his staff, including Chief Deputy Jeff Trafton, who has announced his intention to run for the position of sheriff. Trafton has a long career in local law enforcement, including long stints as the Belfast police chief and as a state trooper. Story said that he strongly endorses Trafton’s bid.
“He and I have similar philosophies about public service,” the sheriff said. “We work for the public. They support us in every way, including financially. The $1.3 million budget for county law enforcement — that’s not my money. That money belongs to the taxpayers of Waldo County, and I don’t take that lightly.”