ELIOT, Maine — One leader after the other took the microphone Saturday evening to thank former York police Chief Douglas Bracy for his decades of service to the local community, during a retirement party at the Regatta Room.
Their stories, expressions of gratitude and friendly barbs traced the ways Bracy contributed not only to York’s police force but to the broader law enforcement community throughout his career serving the community in which he was raised.
The lineup of about a dozen speakers included representatives from the York Police Department, the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. attorney’s office in Maine and other agencies, each of whom delivered a piece of memorabilia to commemorate Bracy’s service.
The gift from York police included a shadowbox with Bracy’s badges and decommissioned firearm etched with the dates that his 42-year career on the force began and ended.
Bracy had been police chief for 20 years, after serving 22 years as a York patrol officer, patrol sergeant and patrol lieutenant. He retired effective July 31, passing the reins to a successor within the department.
“I would not be standing here today if it was not for the guidance I received from Doug Bracy,” the new chief, Charles Szeniawski, said during the party, thanking his predecessor for providing direct mentorship and modeling excellence as a local leader.
“He was always fair to the public and wanted to see the good in everyone. No matter how many times we’d dealt with them, he would always see the good there,” Szeniawski said.
“The chief has always had the community’s interest at heart,” Szeniawski added.
Bracy has served as the town’s emergency management director and as a member of York Hospital’s board of directors, taking a turn as the board’s chairman. He has also volunteered with the York Ambulance Service.
Town Manager Steve Burns praised Bracy for leading in a way that made York police both a family and a professional law enforcement organization.
“I think he achieved both of those things,” Burns said in an interview.
“When you look at the command staff today, they all came up through the ranks, just like Doug did, and he’s just done an incredible job,” Burns added.
When her turn at the mic came, former state Sen. Mary Andrews, a Republian from York, recounted the way she met Bracy while he was working as an aide at York Hospital. Andrews, who was named 2018 Citizen of the Year by the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce, said she has gotten along with Bracy ever since.
“I’ve enjoyed working with Doug all of these years, and I consider him a very trusted friend,” Andrews said.
While most people think of their jobs in terms of a 40-hour work week, Bracy often dedicated 60 to 70 hours per week, even before he was named chief, according to retired York police Lt. Robert Scamman, who worked alongside Bracy for 39 years.
“He put his heart and soul into this job, honestly. He gave everything,” Scamman said in an interview. “He put his life into this place.”
Scamman, who joined the York force in 1978 and retired two years ago, said Bracy deserves to enjoy his retirement and newfound freedom from “small-town politics.”
The former chief’s wife, Brenda Bracy, who had been director of York’s senior center until her own retirement July 1, said the end of her husband’s law enforcement career has been bittersweet.
“He doesn’t miss the circus, but he misses some of the clowns,” she said in an interview.
“They’re more like a family than anything to him,” she added.
When he addressed the crowd of more than 150 attendees at the end of the program, Douglas Bracy reiterated the idea that York police personnel have been more like relatives than colleagues to him.
“The members of this department both past and present have been an important part of my extended family for more than two-thirds of my life,” he said. “At times, I spent more time with all of you than I have spent with my own family.”
“Although I know I may see many of you around town, not interacting with you each and every day has been a hard adjustment for me,” he added. “I just want each of you to know how much you have meant to me, how much I appreciate all you have done over all these years. There are so many instances I look back upon recognizing this was not a job I could have done alone. It takes a team effort.”