AUBURN— The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office announced that former Sheriff Ronald Gagnon died at his home Friday morning. He was 72.

Retired Androscoggin County Sheriff Ronald Gagnon died at his home Friday morning.

According to some former employees, he’s remembered as a fair boss who worked tirelessly to rebuild a failing jail.

“Sheriff Gagnon started his career with the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office in 1977 and worked his way through the ranks to include sergeant, and Chief Deputy,” according to an announcement Saturday on the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page. “In 1985 he was appointed sheriff by the governor. He held the office of sheriff until his retirement in 2007.”

Gagnon began working in Androscoggin County Jail in 1977.

According to a 2006 profile by Sun Journal reporter Daniel Hartill, before being hired Gagnon played professional hockey with the Lewiston-based Maine Nordiques, and upon his hiring had “muscles that had muscles.”

During his early tenure, the  Androscoggin County Jail was a tumultuous place. It had iron bars, physical keys (not the electronic locks used today) and was desperately overcrowded.

At one point in the 1980s, the 30-bed jail housed more than 90 inmates, and, in 1980, a dispute with employees left Gagnon and then-jail administrator Lionel Cote alone with 40 inmates, who flooded the jail and set fires. Inmates were bused to other jails, and the jail had to be closed.

Something had to change. According to current Sheriff Eric Sampson, who was hired by Gagnon as a part-time jail guard in 1991, Gagnon worked tirelessly to persuade the public to fund the project, which cost $9 million. Adjusted for inflation, it would cost $17,168,135.22 in 2019 dollars.

“There are pictures of them (former county employees) sitting at kiosks in the mall, trying to get information out about paying for the new facility … I’m thinking, I can’t imagine doing that,” said Samson. The approach worked. The jail was constructed in 1991.

Former Androscoggin County Sheriff Capt. Ray LaFrance said that was Gagnon’s style. He was a people person and wasn’t one to sit behind a desk.

“He wasn’t sitting in office dictating; he was right in the field. He worked right with us, whether it was in the jail or on patrol,” said LaFrance.

LaFrance and Gagnon started their careers at the same time and progressed through their respective careers together.

“He was a very good friend, and a good boss,” said LaFrance. “He was one of my best friends. We advanced our careers together at the same time, we went to the same administrative training schools together, and I really enjoyed working for him.”

According to LaFrance, Gagnon was a fair boss who genuinely cared about his employees.

“He was a good guy to all employees'” LaFrance said. “He was an employee. He was one of us.”

According to LaFrance, as sheriff, Gagnon regularly went on patrols with his deputies. When he started the county’s first dive team, he was out on the water with his deputies, driving the boat.

But when it came time to talk to reporters or take the spotlight, he was modest.

“He didn’t like to take the spotlight. … He’d say, ‘you talk to them, it’s your division, you talk to them,'” said LaFrance. “He’d let us get the credit.”

Gagnon also hired current Chief Deputy William Gagne as a part-time deputy around the same time as Samson.

At the time, Gagne’s father, Andy, was Gagnon’s chief deputy. William credits Gagnon with helping him pursue a law-enforcement career.

“I got hired first as a part-time deputy. Ron gave me the chance and opportunity to pursue my long-term dream of being an officer,” said Gagne.

In addition to hiring Samson and Gagne, Gagnon also laid the foundation for many programs in the jail and patrol division, like the alternative sentencing program — still in existence today — and the Sheriff Office’s patrol contract with the town of Poland.

Gagnon also started a program which allowed low-risk offenders to go on work-release and assist the Public Works Department during snowstorms and projects. Under Gagnon’s administration, there was always the opportunity for staff to propose an idea and grow with it, said Sampson. Gagnon was a supportive boss with an open-door policy who helped lay the groundwork for the current state of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office.

“He was also very supportive of in-service training and professional growth. During his era, there was always great opportunities for employees,” said Samson.

Beside his work modernizing the jail and instituting widespread improvements to the sheriff’s office, LaFrance remembered Gagnon as an easygoing guy who loved to hunt and fish.

“He taught me how to play golf. … I was never a good golfer, but we’d go out on Saturdays. He was a very good golfer,” said LaFrance. “He was a good guy. He treated everyone really, really fairly.”

“I can’t say enough good about Ron Gagnon,” said LaFrance.


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