AUBURN — At least two people — both members of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department — plan to run for the county’s top job.

Patrol Capt. Raymond Lafrance, 59, of Poland and Sgt. Eric Samson, 42, of Auburn said Wednesday they have begun collecting signatures for the office of sheriff.

And more may be coming. People have until March 15 to submit their signatures and other documents to the Maine Secretary of State’s office for the June primary.

However, the campaign has begun.

The competitors will vie for the seat held by Guy Desjardins since 2006. Desjardins announced in the fall that he would not seek a third term. Instead, he is running for the Maine Legislature’s Senate District 22. His term as sheriff ends at the end of 2014.

It leaves the office without an incumbent candidate for the first time in decades.

“It’s been a goal of mine for many years to run for sheriff,” said Lafrance, who began working for the department as a part-time deputy in 1977. “I’ve got ideas on how I would run the department, but I didn’t want to run against my boss, someone I worked for.”

In 1985, Lafrance was promoted to sergeant. A year later, he was promoted to captain and the county’s public safety director, overseeing rural patrol and communications. He’s held the job ever since, now going on 28 years.

Samson also has many years of service to the county.

He joined the department as a part-time officer in 1991. He became a full-time corrections officer in the Androscoggin County Jail in 1993 and became transportation supervisor in 1995, holding that job for nine years. In 2004, he became the jail’s director of programs. Though he technically held the job for seven years, he spent two as acting chief deputy to Desjardins.

He later transitioned to patrol deputy, working first in Poland and later throughout the county.

“I’ve got experience all around, well-rounded within the county and elected experience within the city of Auburn,” said Samson, who served on the Auburn City Council and failed to unseat Desjardins in 2010.

Both men said they look forward to the way the county will change under the newly passed charter, which expands the County Commission to seven members and requires hiring a full-time administrator.

“It’s going to change the way the county operates,” said Samson, who will run as a Democrat. “I’ve got experience working in that type of government. I think now is the opportune time to set the path for the Sheriff’s Department within county government.”

Lafrance also highlighted the government’s upcoming changes.

“I think we have some real great challenges ahead of us, but I think we have some real, real good opportunities,” he said.

Prior to beginning his campaign, Lafrance left the Democratic Party. He plans to run as an unenrolled candidate, allowing his name to appear on the November ballot.

“I was approached by a lot of people who support me for sheriff but told me they were independent or Republican,” Lafrance said. “I think it’s real important that everyone has the opportunity to vote for sheriff. I’ll be running in the general election so everyone — every voter — can vote for me.”

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