Chief nominee gets panel’s OK


AUGUSTA — After receiving ringing statements of support from a cross-section of Maine law enforcement, 27-year state police veteran Robert Williams on Thursday won a legislative committee’s endorsement to head the force.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s 13-0 vote virtually locks a favorable state Senate vote for the Vassalboro resident’s confirmation.

Williams, a lieutenant colonel with the state police, is a graduate of the University of Maine at Augusta and holds a master’s degree in administration from Husson University. He also graduated from the FBI’s National Academy in Quantico, Va.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s nominee was described by Public Safety Commissioner John Morris as well-rounded in all phases of police work and “the right man at the right time for this position.”

Morris’ views were echoed by Attorney General William Schneider, who called Williams “a terrific, professional trooper.” Williams’ former boss Craig Poulin, who headed the state police, called Williams “a man of character.”

“Lieutenant Colonel Williams will not disappoint you,” Poulin promised.

If confirmed, Williams, who now serves as deputy chief of the department, will get the title of colonel. He’ll succeed Patrick Fleming, who retired Sunday and is now executive director of the state’s Gambling Control Board.

Williams, 47, told the committee he’s held almost every job in the state police except for detective and chief.

“I have been involved in every aspect of state police planning, organizing, staffing, directing, budgeting and managing,” Williams said. “Some issues I’ve dealt with at the command level involve helping develop five biennial budgets, working with criminal justice partners from all levels, negotiating contracts, developing policy, hiring and promoting of personnel and, unfortunately, the occasional disciplinary issue.”

In addition, he said, he’s written major operational plans and applied for millions of dollars in grants — and even prepared legislative testimony.

Asked what his major challenges are, Williams said, “Keeping up with society.” He referred to the constant changes in technology, noting that most crimes today involve some kind of electronic device. Another challenge is keeping up with the changing law enforcement demands created by Maine’s growing elderly population.

County sheriffs, a representative of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, the Maine State Troopers Association and others spoke in Williams’ support. No one opposed his appointment.