Mt. Abram’s Michael Sauschuck, right, dark jersey and Carrabec’s Karl Price go after the soccer ball. Whitney Draper photo

Michael Sauschuck, a former U.S. Marine and police chief, whose easygoing demeanor is tempered by his genuine humility and dedication, never thought of himself as “anything special” as a high school soccer player.

But his teammate Darren Allen remembers Sauschuck for his invaluable leadership skills and inspirational voice for the 1987 Mt. Abram boys soccer team.

Micheal Sauschuck delivers his opening statement in his confirmation hearing before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in February. Portland Press Herald photo by Ben McCanna

Sauschuck’s take-charge attitude has served him well as a cop, jarhead and now as the newly appointed Maine Commissioner for Public Safety in Gov. Janet Mills’ administration.

“This position allows me to branch out a little bit more, and that is exciting to me,” Sauschuck, a Madrid native, said. “I think you have a statewide impact and it is something that has been focused in the city of Portland … for a number of years.”

Mills and Sauschuck traveled in the same the circles in law enforcement.

“She was the attorney general for a number of years while I was a police chief,” Sauschuck said. “She is also a born-and-bred native of Farmington. 

“She has been in the game a long time as a district attorney and as an attorney general and has just been involved in a lot of different things. So I knew Gov. Mills as her time in the attorney general’s office and we did some work on opioids and other stuff.”

Mills is confident that Sauschuck and Randy Liberty, who was confirmed in February as the next commissioner of the Maine State Prison, will have a positive affect in their jobs.

“The fundamental charge of any government is to protect the safety and well-being of its citizens,” Mills said in a statement. “With decades of experience, Mike Sauschuck and Randy Liberty are leaders of the highest order who are well-positioned to fulfill that critical mission and who are well-respected across the board. 

“I look forward to working with them in the years to come to ensure that we have a strong and successful Department of Public Safety and Department of Corrections.”

Be true to your school

Sauschuck, a former Portland police chief, downplays his role on the soccer team, but applauds his teammates for their tenacity and talent.

“I don’t know if I was a great soccer player, but I did play soccer,” he said. “That was my high school sport of choice and I enjoyed it. It was a great team. I think you learn a lot through team sports, no matter what the sport happens to be.

“We went to a couple of tournaments. We did pretty well and had a pretty good team. Obviously, Darren was an incredibly gifted and a great goalie, and we had some really talented players as well. 

“It was a good time and a great experience. I was a sweeper for a while on defense … but I don’t think I was special by any means. Soccer tends to be where it is at up there (in Salem). They have good basketball teams from time to time.”

But Allen begs to differ with Sauschuck’s self-evaluation of his athleticism and believes the former police chief made a huge contribution to the soccer team.

“Mike was one of our leaders in the first season in the Mountain Valley Conference in 1987,” Allen, who is the current Mt. Abram boys soccer coach, said. “I believe he played outside back. He may not had been the best soccer player on the team, however, he was a leader of that team. This was the first year our seniors were in a conference. 

“Mike was one of our leaders that helped us win the first-ever MVC title. We went 12-1-1 that year and beat out Telstar, who went 11-2-1. Mike led the team with his words and through his play. He always came ready to play and did his job.”

Allen said Sauschuck’s leadership played an important role in some of the Roadrunners’ biggest games.

“I remember a night game in Rumford (it was Rumford High School back then),” Allen said. “It was a huge game for us because it was the first time many of us played under the lights. We also needed to win to keep pace with Telstar in the win column. 

“Mike got us together and had a talk with us to get us ready. We were so focused for that game and we went on to win. Mike is a natural-born leader, as you can tell with his last two jobs. Those teams we had back then had great athletes and guys. Mike was one of the top players not only for his ability to play, but he brought such leadership to a group that made him stand out.” 

Sauschuck believes athletics can make a difference in a child’s life, especially on the academic side of high school.

“I think athletics are more important to kids, especially when you are in a rural county, where it kind of brings you together,” he said. “It allows you to work as a team, I think that work-ethic approach and that team atmosphere is invaluable as a skill set for later in life.

“I think they (sports) allow kids to be focused. It focuses on having the privilege of playing sports and you need to do these other things. 

“That team atmosphere, everyone working together towards one goal, is a skill set that you use over and over again. I think athletics is an area where people are gifted and talented. It also allows for your work ethic to shine through. It allows you to put in the time and be successful. Maybe you weren’t the best player or naturally gifted, you started and you put in the time and you can succeed.” 

According Allen, Sauschuck was also sharp student.

“He also was a leader in the classroom,” Allen said. “I remember in class we had a presidential debate and he won.”

A higher calling

When Sauschuck graduated from Mt. Abram in 1988, he wasn’t sure about heading off to college so he turned to Uncle Sam and enlisted in the United States Marines. 

“It was something that I wanted to serve our country, and I was looking to be a member of a team,” Sauschuck said. “I was looking to something that I could always be connected to. 

“I think the U.S. Marine Corps has a family atmosphere. That’s why we always talk about former Marines. There is no such thing as an ex-Marine. I think I was right and I wouldn’t change anything and I had an absolute great time in the Marine Corps, and I think it helped me later in life.”

Sauschuck said he started as a grunt and then became an M60 machine gunner before taking on embassy duty for three years.

“I was stationed in Moscow and I was stationed in El Salvador for various times,” he said.

After his five-year stint with the Marines and seeing the world, he chose a career in law enforcement and also earned a college degree in criminology in 1993. 

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, flanked by police officials from throughout Cumberland County, says at a press conference in 2015 that a legislative effort to repeal the requirement for a concealed weapons permit would endanger the public. Portland Press Herald file photo

“I ended up Portland and I was going to USM,” Sauschuck said. “When I was going to college, I was a reserve police officer at Old Orchard Beach for a few years. Then Old Orchard hired me full-time and I stuck around for a couple of months. Great PD, good people, and I also applied for Portland. They called me and I made the move in 1997.

“I was with the PD for 21 years, I was the chief of police the last six years and I ultimately moved over to be the assistant city manager for six months or so. It is a great town. It is an urban atmosphere. There is a lot going on, but there is a lot of good people down there, people who are supportive of the police department. So we are very lucky in that regard for sure.”

Looking back

Sauschuck continues to move forward in his professional career, but you can bet those memories of the old school yard and playing for former Mt. Abram coach Art Potter will surface every now and then.

“He’s (Potter) good people,” Sauschuck said. “I haven’t talked to Art in a hundred years. Say hello, please. They are good people and doing it for the right reasons.”

Potter remembers Sauschuck as a determined and diligent student.

“I had him for four years in high school,” Potter said. “I kind of follow him and seen him on TV and whatnot, and congratulated him on his accomplishments.

“He has just been just a good man and student. I was physical education teacher and worked with him as a student. He was often in the gym when he could get some free time and was always joining in different activities. Just a real good guy and a positive guy.

“When he became a chief of police in Portland, I sent a little card to him and just congratulated him. It was a little comical one. There were five dogs on the edge of table and one of them looked real sad. I said, ‘Mike, that’s you because I wouldn’t give you a pass to come down and play floor hockey. He sent a nice little note back to me. He didn’t have to and I am sure he was real busy … and it showed that he appreciated it.”

Sauschuck has made that kind of impression on people who helped the former U.S. Marine move forward in life.

“I don’t consider myself to be a great athlete and I certainly enjoyed it and proud to play for Mt. Abram,” he said. “It is certainly a great school and I certainly think about those times and teams with great fondness. Good people.”

 


Comments are not available on this story.