LEWISTON — After two temporary promotions to Androscoggin County’s chief deputy, Eric Samson wants his department’s top job.
His name will appear on the Democratic ballot for sheriff in the June 8 primary. His opponent will be the man who twice promoted him, Sheriff Guy Desjardins.
“It’s not personal,” said Samson, who currently works in the county jail as its programs officer. “There are differences in our management style.”
And Samson, a 17-year veteran of the department, has eyed the sheriff’s positions since the late 1990s, he said. That’s when he committed himself to working for the county, rather than move to one of the Lewiston or Auburn departments with their higher pay scales.
“This became a career goal,” he said. It’s not his only one.
The 38-year-old Auburn man has been a visible player in local politics for several years. He is currently serving a third term on the Auburn City Council. And in 2008, he lost a bid for Auburn mayor to John Jenkins, who won an unexpected write-in campaign for a second and final term in office.
If he won the primary and a general election (where there is no Republican opponent), Samson would have to resign from his city post. Auburn’s City Charter prevents people from holding another elected office while serving as a councilor.
Samson said he doesn’t mind the change, adding that he would focus all of his time to the sheriff’s office.
His experience, including eight years as the president of the department’s union, would serve him well, he said.
“I offer something different, a proven ability to work with staff and establish common goals,” he said. “I have negotiated three contracts.”
Samson said he would use the work to re-engage department staff.
“I always wanted the department to be progressive,” he said.
Instead, he believes too many deputies and corrections workers do not feel engaged enough in the department’s goals.
“If you want people to buy into a philosophy, you’ve got to let them participate in the establishment of that philosophy,” he said. “I think the employees feel isolated.”
He had hoped to get some of that done as chief deputy, a job that he liked for a while.
“It gives you a different angle,” he said.
However, the job was never entirely his. Desjardins chose Samson as his chief even before his election in 2006. However, the pay scale seemed low, requiring a pay cut from his role as a sergeant. So Samson was the acting chief deputy while he drew his sergeant’s pay. Eventually, the county commission forced Samson to choose the chief’s job or his sergeant’s pay, and he went with the latter.
When the job became vacant again a year later, Samson took it again in an acting role. This time, he left the role on his own, citing differences between himself and Desjardins.
“I believe I have the best interest of the department at heart,” he said.