DEXTER, Maine — Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs didn’t have to look as far as she thought she would to find the town’s next police chief.
Briggs said she was conducting an external search to find a replacement for Chief James Emerson, who retired in February, but gave people within the department an opportunity to state their case. Kevin Wintle, who had been serving as acting chief since Emerson retired, won her over.
Wintle was officially sworn in as police chief during a ceremony on Thursday evening.
“I agreed to hold off my search [for a new chief] for a while,” said Briggs. “Little did Kevin, [Sgt.] Alan [Grinnell] or even I knew that what that request began was the longest job interview in Dexter’s history.
“With Kevin serving as the interim or acting chief, he and Alan worked side-by-side to bring order, respect and calm to a department in turmoil. I saw that Kevin was developing leadership skills with every decision he made,” said Briggs.
Wintle grew up in Etna and graduated from Nokomis High School in Newport. He started in Dexter’s Police Department in 1989. He was a school resource officer in Newport and managed the constable deputy program in Hermon before returning to Dexter, said Briggs.
Wintle was also the first officer on the scene during the Lake family murders, when Amy Lake’s estranged husband, Steven, murdered her and their children, Coty and Monica, before killing himself last year.
“I rethought my initial reaction to hire from outside and determined there was no other candidate that would bring such passion to the job than Kevin Wintle,” said Briggs.
Most of the Dexter police officers surrounded Wintle as he gave his speech to a full crowd in the Dexter Town Council chambers. His wife, Faith, and his son, Tyler, pinned his new “chief” collar brass on him.
Grinnell said that Wintle has helped bring the department together.
“I really feel that we’re heading in a direction now. I really didn’t feel like we were in one before,” said Grinnell. “I feel that we’re going to be able to do more for the town — more structured law enforcement, more community policing, more proactive with everything. I’m excited about it.”
Wintle said he was happy to have the full support of officers in his department and from the town manager.
“When [the chief’s position] was posted internally, [Grinnell] told me that he was not going to apply; that it would be on me,” said Wintle. “That meant quite a bit. Right now, we’re in transition. We’re trying to get that in place.”
Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, spoke at the ceremony and said Wintle’s knowledge and history of the town is important.
“I think he has a lot of respect in the community, but he knew the community, and I think that’s what’s important in terms of having a relationship with the people in the area,” said Fredette.