MADAWASKA - Thirty-two-year law enforcement veteran Carroll Theriault is the new chief of police in Madawaska effective October 23, and that's not the only change at the police department.
Since July, Theriault has been acting as interim police chief in the wake of former Chief Ron Pelletier's retirement announcement in June. In a pinning ceremony Thursday, Pelletier handed over the reigns of the department to Theriault. Local officials attended the ceremony where, after Pelletier ceremoniously promoted Theriault to the status of police chief, Theriault then promoted Officer Ross Dubois to step into his vacated sergeant's position.
To fill the open patrolman position left by Dubois, the department has hired Danielle Levesque, who will begin working on November 6. Levesque is a native of Madawaska who graduated from the police academy in December and has been working with the Presque Isle police. The town also voted at a council meeting Tuesday to add Cameron Dufour of Fort Kent Mills to the reserve roster.
Theriault began his career with law enforcement in 1979 as a patrolman with the Aroostook County Sheriff's Department patrolling the northern sector including the towns of Allagash, Eagle Lake, Sinclair, and Frenchville. Eventually he received a promotion to acting supervisor and oversaw four patrols from a central location in Caribou.
Pelletier hired Theriault as a patrol officer in February 1984.
"You don't forget a date like that," Theriault laughed. "I think it was Friday the 13th. I'm not sure."
Theriault received his promotion to sergeant in 1990. By the time Pelletier announced his retirement, Theriault was prepared.
"I knew he was going to be retiring in the near future," Theriault explained. "I let Ron know that I was interested, and he was in support of me applying for the position."
It was far from a done deal, though. The town first advertised the position in-house, where he was the only applicant. The hiring committee, comprised of private citizens, a selectman, and the town manager, decided to open the application process to the outside. Eight candidates applied, and the committee selected four to interview. When they narrowed the selections to two candidates, the committee voted unanimously in favor of appointing Theriault.
Theriault says he has some minor changes in mind for the department, but for the most part, he plans on keeping things status quo, for now.
"I want to continue in the same manner as Chief Pelletier was heading," he said. "The budget has already been made for this year. I have to operate under that realm."
In the future, though, Theriault said he wants to look for ways to improve the department. He plans to research grants that might be available for equipment purchases, training and public awareness projects.
Theriault would like to focus attention on the youth in the town, possibly working with the schools to bring attention to safety issues concerning kids. Theriault says the department was once fairly active with the youth in the community. There was the DARE program until the schools changed to a block scheduling system and funding to continue the program began to wane, and there was an explorer program that allowed young people to take an active role in their community by helping the police department as junior patrolmen at special events.
"It's the nature of the beast where we live," said Theriault. "There isn't much for the kids to do. The kids have lost touch with the police. When groups went through the DARE program, they knew the police officers."
Theriault said that drugs are one of the major problems facing the town and its youth. He has tasked newly appointed Sergeant Dubois with finding areas where police can work with kids.
Theriault says that being a border town has its advantages, but that it also presents some challenges.
"There are always smuggling issues."
Whether its drug or human trafficking, Theriault said the department is committed to working with all other law enforcement agencies to ensure the town and its citizens are safe.
"We're highly respected throughout the State of Maine. We've always had good officers and good relationships with other departments. I'd like to keep us going in that same direction."
When Theriault is not serving and protecting the community, he enjoys spending his time much the same way as others might.
"I have two granddaughters that I cherish a lot. I try to give a lot of time to them," he said. "I love the outdoors. I love to hunt and if I had more time, I'd love to do more fishing."
As for how the town feels about Theriault's appointment, Town Manager Christine Therrien offered these words, "We're excited. Officer Carroll Theriault has been with our department for a long time. I think he'll be well received by the town. We're looking forward to having him as the new police chief."