Paris Police Chief Hartley “Skip” Mowatt will retire this month after a 28-year career with the department. Advertiser Democrat photo by Jon Bolduc

PARIS — In the eyes of Police Chief  Hartley “Skip” Mowatt Jr., Paris epitomizes “small-town USA.”

He said he is ending his 28-year career as an officer, sergeant and chief this month, after working to build a department that matches the needs of the town it serves.

“With the Paris Police Department, the citizens get to know their police officers,” he said. “I walk anywhere in town, and they all know me. They know all my officers. Ray Paar pulls up, or Nick Gilbert, or Mike Dailey — they know who they are. That’s impressive. And that’s what you need in a small town.”

Mowatt said he has made it a priority to have an open-door policy of leadership. He rearranged his office with tables and chairs to be more accessible and he’s had countless community members enter his office to chat.

 “Community policing is one of the most important things you can do around here,” he said. “You have to have an open door, talk to people and be able to communicate with them. If you can’t communicate with your local people, then you’re lost.”

Brought on as chief in 2016 after interim Police Chief Jeff Lange resigned, citing a “toxic atmosphere,” Mowatt said his ability to ride out the tough times comes, in part, from his ties to the community.

“It’s been a great career,” he said. “The town of Paris has served me well for almost 30 years. I’ve been through a few chiefs, select boards and managers, and sometimes it was pretty rough.”

His success also lies with his strong crew, he said.

“Without the police officers I have — they do the brunt of the work. I set things up, put them in motion, and they do the work,” Mowatt said, “but you have to be beside them and help them do it, too.”  

Born and raised in Portland, Mowatt’s family is from the Harrison and Bridgton areas. When Mowatt was 18, he joined the U.S. Army and served with the 553rd Military Police Co. out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

He took a part-time job with the Paris Police Department in 1991, worked his way up from part time to full time and was promoted to sergeant in 1998. 

He said his favorite time was working as a school resource officer for School Administrative District 17.

“I worked at the school for the better part of 10 years,” he said. “I loved it. I got to know a lot of kids, and a lot of families. That worked out to my benefit. I’d run into a problem with kids and I’d say, ‘I know your parents.'”

While serving as a sergeant, Mowatt took a five-year leave of absence in 2004 when his Army National Guard unit was deployed to Iraq. 

Mowatt also worked for the West Paris Fire Department for 10 years in 1990s.

Despite his long career in public service, he said it’s time for him to take a step back, turn off his cellphone, and let another officer take the reins.

It’s time for me to take a step back, and say, ‘Thank you very much’ to the town of Paris, it’s been great working with you, but I got to go.’ It’s like the military says, there’s always another servant coming up behind you. There’s always another police chief right behind you.”  

He said he hopes the person who takes over the position “remembers that you’re serving the community. The community comes first. They’re the ones that are going to keep you here. If you don’t work for the community, they will let you go.”

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