LEWISTON — It might be easier to list who didn’t turn out for Police Chief Michael Bussiere’s farewell party rather than who did.

Representatives from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency were there, as were those from the Maine field office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Fire chiefs past and present turned out from both sides of the Androscoggin River, along with a throng of police officers, including some who have been retired since the 1970s.

The U.S. attorney was there, the city administrator and the mayor, too. Senators and congressmen sent plaques and words of thanks, and even the head of the city library showed up to say goodbye to Bussiere, who heads to Texas later this month.

And of course, there was Bussiere’s family — his mother, his father, his two children, his fiancee and too many family friends to count.

“He’s been so successful, and he’s done it all on his own,” said Bussiere’s mother, Valerie Hencken. “He’s done so many good things here, but he never boasts about them.”

That’s OK — there were plenty of people at the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce office Wednesday to do the boasting for him. They talked about the crime rate, which fell dramatically during Bussiere’s seven-year run as chief, and about the salvaged reputation of the city.

“You’ve always been a champion for this community,” chamber President Matt Leonard said.

“He’s done just an outstanding job,” Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald said.

“You’ve always been a great partner, as have all the members of your department,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II. “When Mike gets to Texas, he’s going to show them how we do business here in the state of Maine.”

Bussiere announced in June that he is leaving for Dallas-Fort Worth to take a command-level position. It’s easy to see why some are sorry to see him go. According to city figures, crime has been reduced by over 40 percent in Lewiston since Bussiere took over leadership of the department. City leaders credit, in part, his “hot spot policing” strategies, introduced in 2012, for changing the crime rate and the image of the city.

But the gathering Wednesday night only partially hinged around matters of city business. Most turned out to say goodbye to Bussiere for reasons that transcended mere crime stats.

“It’s been great working with him for the past 26 years,” said Police Lt. Mike McGonagle, who started his own career at the department just ahead of Bussiere. “He’s been a great officer, a great chief and a great friend.”

McGonagle ought to know. Bussiere’s mother recalls when as a rookie cop, her son lived in a house with McGonagle and Brian O’Malley, who will take over as interim police chief.

“They were the Fearsome Three,” she said. “I loved those boys.”

Many in the room Wednesday pointed out that it wasn’t becoming chief that made Bussiere a great cop. He was successful during every step of his career, they said, whether he was a rookie, a drug agent, a detective or deputy chief.

“I knew him when he was a cop working a beat,” said former Lewiston Fire Chief Michel Lajoie. “He was always a very good officer.”

“He was a big-picture guy,” said Michael W. Wardrop, resident agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Agency. “He just got it. He understood the importance of cooperation between federal, state and local.”

Macdonald remembered when Bussiere first joined the force — a man so young and fresh that his police-issue hat was too big for his head.

U.S. Attorney Delahanty suggested that Bussiere become a cop before he actually started to shave.

It was as close as the farewell party came to a roast. Mostly what was expressed was admiration and gratitude, with a tinge of wonder about the future of the Lewiston Police Department.

Bussiere’s mother can shed light on that end of it. Having spent so much time with her son’s circle of colleagues and friends, she said the transition will be smooth once O’Malley takes over as acting chief.

“The department,” she said, “will be just fine.”


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