MEXICO — Police Chief Jim Theriault, whose last official day with the department is Jan. 10, reflected on a long law enforcement career that began in 1972 as a reserve officer for Rumford.

“I’ve had a great career. I love law enforcement. You deal with some pretty, shaky people, but you also have some nice moments. There are actually more nice moments than bad moments, other than car crashes and stuff like that,” he said.

“I had mixed feelings about retiring. I mean, I know it’s my time to retire,” said Theriault, who turned 65 on Dec. 21. “I’ve enjoyed it and wouldn’t change it for anything. The only thing I might change is finishing the 25 years in Rumford so I could have retired earlier. But I have no regrets.”

“I love working over here. The citizens are great and have shown us tremendous support over the last 20 years. Basically, the last 10 or 15 years, the selectmen have been supportive of us and we get along great with them. And of course, John Madigan, being our boss, there’s nobody like him. He’s just a phenomenal boss. If you do your job and do it right, he leaves you alone. If you’ve got any questions, he’ll answer them, and he never, ever argues or hollars at you,” said Theriault.

“I have a good staff that works here now. The citizens like them, like all of them who are working here. When I tell them that Roy’s (Hodsdon) going to be taking my place, they’re all happy. They all like him. He does a fantastic job,” he said.

Theriault said the Mexico Police Department has come a long ways in the last 20 years.

“When I started, we were in what’s the mail room of the town office. That was our office when Greg Gallant was chief. We had two desks and a typewriter that had a couple of letters broke off. Greg wouldn’t buy us anything to replace it.”

When they would finish with a report, Theriault said they would go back to see where the broken letters were and fill those spaces in with ink.

“One of my first duties when I became chief was to get rid of that typewriter and I bought us a word processor. At that time, that was the going thing. And we moved on from there,” said Theriault.

From the town office, the department was moved downstairs in the library. It was a very cramped space, “but at least it was out of the town office and away from the selectmen and town manager. They kind of left us alone,” he said.

They then moved to recreation building. “My office was downstairs, right under the gym. Bang, bang, bang with the basketballs. That’s why I was out of there by 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We had one classroom upstairs for the patrol office,” said Theriault.

“Then we moved my office into one of the other classrooms, and Roy and I shared that office. Our evidence locker was downstairs in the cellar. That wasn’t very convenient either, over there. Talk about interviews, we had an aggravated assault that happened right in front of the fire station on Main Street. And it was a Friday, maybe 6 o’clock. It was really bad, an aggravated assault with a baseball bat. We ended up arresting somebody and the other person went to the hospital and we didn’t know if that person was going to live, so we called the State Police and they sent up their detectives and stuff. We tried doing interviews in the rec building in our office. It was Friday night, which was kids’ rollerskating night, and the gym was right across the hall from where our office was,” he said.

“We did it, but the State Police weren’t very happy. I wasn’t very happy. So when this place became available, I did everything I could to get us over here, and it worked,” said the chief.

They’ve been in this location for about a year. “And we love it. We’ve got all kinds of room, our own interrogation room, our evidence locker on the same floor, a locker room, a big conference room and a little conference room, a weight room down on the other end,” said Theriault.

This space has also been great for the Police Explorers.

“That’s been a super program. We started that in 2007. Roy and Renee (Hodsdon) do an excellent job with that program. I’m not really too involved with it anymore, but I still handle the checkbook,” noted Theriault.

They also let the Mexico Lions Club use the big conference room. It helps that Theriault is the King Lion, and has been in that role for seven of the past eight years.

How did Theriault get into law enforcement?

“I was driving an oil truck and a septic truck for Benedix Bros. up in Virginia. My uncle, Albert (Theriault), used to be the (police) chief in Rumford. He retired in 1967, the year I graduated from high school. He was a selectmen in Rumford for awhile and a state representative for a couple of years.”

“And my uncle, Bob Gill, was a sergeant over there. I just happened to be down on the Island one day and I was talking to Stan Wagnis, who was the chief at that time. He said, ‘Hey, you ought to put your name in. I might be able to get you a job,'” said Theriault.

“So I put my name in and I had to go get a Governor’s pardon before I could be a policeman,” he said.

Theriault elaborated that that was because in his “wilder high school days,” he was charged with a driving to endanger incident “where I, ah, almost ran over Dewey Robinson (Rumford police officer who would become chief there).”

“The irony of that is when I got hired over there, he was my partner. I had to work with them,” he noted with a laugh, admitting that it was “very awkward.”

Theriault was hired fulltime for Rumford on Dec. 3, 1974. He was there for eight years.

“I just like mingling with people. When I first started in Rumford, the Island over there…At Christmastime, it was just hopping and we had to go out and do traffic detail, direct traffic on Congress Street for about three weeks before Christmas. Every single day, they would pay us overtime to go out and just stand in the middle of Congress Street, at the intersections, two of us, and direct traffic, keep traffic flowing,” said Theriault.

“It was so busy. And y’know, over there when I started, they had a beat guy and they had one guy in the car. Well, the beat guy got to go visit all the stores and talk to the owners, having coffee. That was 40-something years ago; you can’t do that stuff anymore. I enjoyed that. You were out on the beat until midnight; I did that beat for seven years. Every other week, you’d be on the beat, then in the car,” he said.

“I got all the way up to lieutenant. At that time, I had four kids and my wife, and I was the lowest paid one in the department,” Theriault said.

During the holidays one Christmas, he said he realized he just “couldn’t afford to stay in the lieutenant’s position because it was salary. So I went back on the streets for a year, and then I came over here to Mexico.”

In essence, Theriault demoted himself so he could collect overtime pay. “When Veneziano got the chief’s job over there is when I made lieutenant. About a month after I went back on the street, Veneziano resigned. If I had stayed in there, I could have made chief in Rumford.”

Theriault came over to Mexico in the summer of 1982.

He recalled his first day working for the Mexico Police Department.

“It was a Sunday. Greg Gallant threw me the keys and said, ‘Go do your job.’ Probably within two hours, I had a rollover PI (personal injury) crash right in front of what is Tommy Guns now on the Roxbury Road, and I had an aggravated assault, where they didn’t know if the guy was still alive or not. He was laying on the sidewalk, right in front of the Chicken Coop. Both (incidents) were at the same time. What ta hell? Welcome to Mexico!” said Theriault.

However, Theriault was laid off in 1984 due to cuts in the budget and the department went back to a four-man force.

“I worked for Dixfield for three months. From Dixfield, I went to the Sheriff’s Department and worked for Sheriff Howe for a year. I went from there to the Rumford Fire Department and I was there for five years,” he said.

Through all of this, Theriault remained a reserve with the Mexico Police Department, then became a fulltime officer again in 1992.

“Within three months, I had my sargeant’s stripes back. Then within a year, Greg Gallant resigned (as chief) and I got the chief’s position in 1993,” he said.

“I’ve loved working for the Town of Mexico. Back when I first got the chief’s job, I had some knock down, drag out fights with the selectmen, the town manager, but as long as I could justify what I was asking for, they couldn’t refuse it,” said Theriault.

Theriault and his wife, Mary, still run the Silverlake Campground at Roxbury Pond, but is hopeful that his daughter and her husband will lease that from them for two years before purchasing it.

“But I’ll still be tinkering up there,” said Theriault, adding that he also does carpentry, a skill he honed on work he did each time the police department moved over the years.

Of his wife, whom he’s been married to for 43 years, Theriault said, “She’s a special lady.”

“I bought her a scanner once, for Christmas, when I first started, when I working in Rumford. I was working one night and she had it on, and I signed off at the Barnboard. There was two or three minutes before anybody heard from me, and dispatch was trying to call me; I just forget to turn my portable on when I got out of the car. She just went whacko; ‘what ta hell’s going on with my husband?'”

“She called dispatch, it was still Rumford back then, and wanted to know what was going on, where I was and if I was okay. And they said I was okay. That was the last of the scanner. It was in the garbage when I got home,” said the chief.

Theriault noted, “I’m not one to take my job home. When I leave here, the job stays here.

He admitted that it’s been difficult to not talk to somebody about some of his work, “but I just didn’t want to put my wife through that.”

Theriault said he will continue to have a role with the Police Explorer program. “I’m planning on staying here as a reserve, just because I want to go do the ATV details in the summertime. I’m not going to work the street, but I’m sure Roy is going to have questions and I’ll be around to answer them, if he wants me to.”

Sidebar Elements


Retirement party Saturday

RUMFORD — A retirement party for Mexico Police Chief Jim Theriault will take place this Saturday at the Rumford American Legion, starting at 5 p.m.

Performing will be the Bangor band that performed for five years at his campground, called Desparado. Snacks and hors d’oeuvres will be served as well.

Theriault added that Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant has offered to have the Sheriff’s Department cover the Mexico Police Department during that party to allow the whole Mexico department to participate in the retirement festivities.

“I’ve met and made a lot of friends in law enforcement. I think I’ll find out how many at my party,” he noted.


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