PARIS — Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant is touting his record in his bid for a third term.
The 64-year-old lifelong county resident is looking to continue initiatives undertaken over the past eight years, including expanding the department and making it more visible.
During his tenure, the Democrat from Rumford said he’s focused on substantiating the criminal investigations division with the department and outfitting cruisers to bring awareness of law enforcement into remote corners of the county.
Gallant said revenue is at an all-time high at over $600,000, in part by taking on exclusive contract services with the federal government by patrolling the Canadian border, expanding coverage for the town of Bethel, assigning details along the White Mountain National Forest and joining a human trafficking task force, all without increasing the burden on taxpayers.
Gallant served 25 years with the Rumford Police Department, where he eventually focused on sexual assault cases. He left the department, became police chief of Wilton and was elected county sheriff in 2006.
During the 2006 election, Gallant defeated challenger Chris Wainwright, a captain with the Sheriff’s Office, by more than 2,000 votes. Gallant was unopposed in the 2010 election.
Among of the more important developments during his administration was ending call sharing with Maine State Police in November 2013. The agreement, which once divvied the county into regions which deputies and Maine State Police rotated covering, has freed troopers while providing more continuity between cases, Gallant said.
Though the transition has meant deputies take two to three more calls per shift, the additional caseload has not been a detriment to police work, he said.
Gallant also supported deputies in their negotiations for higher wages with the county. Deputies are county employees; the sheriff’s position is created under Maine’s constitution.
“Commissioners ought to sign our contract and give our deputies a substantial raise,” Gallant said.
While protracted, the ongoing contract dispute with the county has not affected morale, he said.
“Even with the increase in calls, it hasn’t changed the professionalism of our deputies out there, doing the job they took an oath to do,” he said.
“I still love what I do. I originally ran because I saw a new challenge and I thought I could start making changes,” he said.
The jail remains a source of what Gallant called “losing yardage” after it was changed from a full-time jail to a 72-hour holding center. Gallant said he’s working with other sheriffs’ offices and the Board of Corrections to restore the jail to its former status.
During Gallant’s time, the department has grown from 11 patrolmen to 19. That includes four investigators instead of one.
While some of the purchase decisions, such as new, four-wheel-drive cruisers, have been met with criticism, every effort has been made to balance police effectiveness with the taxpayers’ bill.
“Before we purchased them, there were nights we’d come out on a fatal accident or hostage scenario and I’d have to ride into a remote scene with a logger,” Gallant said.
Over the next four years, the key to maintaining a stable budget while offering the same and expanded services will be entering into mutual aid agreements with other emergency agencies to utilize their unique equipment and expertise, he said.