ALFRED, Maine — Three veteran police officials are running to replace Maurice Ouellette as York County Sheriff.
The candidates, all Democrats with no prior political experience, include South Berwick Police Chief Dana Lajoie, York County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy William King and retired York County sheriff’s deputy Paul Main.
The sheriff’s office provides policing for 14 towns without a police department with 24 deputies and three command-level positions. The sheriff also has responsibility for running the jail, with a $10.6 million annual budget and nearly 90 corrections officers.
Lately, the jail has been plagued by staffing shortages and high turnover, which has become a key issue in the race.
Ouellette, a two-term Democrat, is not seeking re-election to a third four-year term.
The Democratic primary is June 10. There are no Republicans running and as of this week no declared independents.
King: Federal experience transfers well
King, 60, of Saco, joined the sheriff’s office in 2010 and was named chief deputy in 2013. He’s also worked as a polygraph expert for the Central Intelligence Agency and spent years with the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General, during which time he toured and reviewed prisons across the country, among other duties.
“I’m uniquely qualified because I have a wide breadth of experience. I have also worked internationally and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work,” he said in a recent interview.
He said the sheriff’s department’s policing efforts are running smoothly under Ouellette and he believes he’s best suited to continue that trend.
King acknowledges there have been staffing crises in the jail but says they aren’t caused by mismanagement. Many corrections officers, he says, want to be police officers and leave when they get a job offer. Others find the job isn’t a good fit and pursue another line of work.
He wants to develop a corrections officer reserve program to build up a pool of trained, qualified officers who can step in to prevent future staffing crises.
King also wants to develop new revenue streams for the office. One idea involves housing some federal inmates, which can generate about $135 per prisoner per day for the county.
Lajoie: Rural background, modern practices
Lajoie, 58, has 31 years of law enforcement experience and 28 years as South Berwick police chief. He’s a lifelong Berwick resident.
Lajoie said his rural policing background combined with knowledge and expertise with data-driven policing would transfer well to the Sheriff’s position. His top goal if elected is to resolve staffing crises at the jail, which he says will improve morale.
He plans to be more accessible to county residents, members of the department and county commissioners and wants to improve the relationship between the Maine State Police and county law enforcement. He also wants to upgrade the sheriff’s website so residents can understand what’s happening within the office.
Lajoie said the South Berwick police department is extremely stable and has very low turnover. During his tenure, South Berwick has repeatedly been named one of the safest communities in Maine, and he said the department has widespread support from the community and elected officials.
“I bring that openness, that level of communications from citizens to police, and I am going to bring that with me,” he said. “Policing and law enforcement is the same statewide no matter where you go. The amount of resources you apply have to be carefully managed.”
Main: Jail staffing top priority
Main, 66, of Alfred, worked as was a sheriff’s deputy for 19 years, including a stint as a corrections officer in the jail. He retired in 2000 but kept in touch with several colleagues, who he said convinced him to run.
Main said resolving the jail staffing crisis is his top priority. He said the corrections department lost about 100 employees to turnover this year despite what he described as generous starting pay packages.
He pledged to require jail supervisors to help plug staffing holes and committed to promoting more patrol deputies from within to reduce turnover. He also wants to mandate deputies spend two years as corrections officers before advancing to patrol duty.
Main said police services within the department are “stretched to the max.” He wants to tweak the existing patrol arrangement with Maine State Police to better utilize manpower between the departments.
“I intend to integrate our patrol programs so services get delivered quicker to the citizens,” he said.
“I have worked in every division in that sheriff’s department. I can hit the ground running,” Main added.
The winner of the June 10 primary must also run in the November general election. Without any Republicans or independent candidates in the race, Tuesday’s winner will likely be elected sheriff.
Distributed by MCT Information Services