Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chiefs announce retirements - By Michelle Libby

Between fire-rescue chief Charlie Hammond and police chief Richard (Rick) Lewsen they have a combined 54 years keeping Windham safe. Although neither will retire until the beginning of next year, they both are looking forward to making some changes in their lives.

“It’s going to be an adjustment not having a pager and cellphone attached to my hip. I’m going to turn my scanner off at home. At two a.m. I’m not going to be listening,” said Hammond. 

Hammond informed the town manager last Monday of his plans to retire. He said he would probably leave on January 2, because it’s a Friday and he’d get a long weekend, he joked. 

Hammond also spent 24 years teaching at Little Falls School in Gorham where he was a teaching principal. He said he has no plans, no bucket list of things to check off once he retires. 

“I’m not going to leave the State of Maine. I’m not going to Florida,” he said. “I’m going to sit home in a soft chair and read. I know I can get up and have lunch or sit all day watching the snow fall and read.”
He hopes to take a few college classes in municipal government to learn new things.
Lewsen also announced his plans last week to retire in April 2015. 

“It’s time to stop racing and time to get out and give it to the younger folks,” said Lewsen.
Lewsen has been Windham’s police chief since 1989. He has seen the department grow up and become a strong department. 

“Drug enforcement is on everybody’s table,” he said. Windham has one office who was assigned to the DEA task force last fall. 

When he first became a police officer, he worked for the sheriff’s department patrolling the Naples Causeway as a 19-year-old. “I had to be 21 to buy ammunition. I had to send my mom up to buy my ammunition for my gun,” he said with a laugh. 

His hopes for the police department going forward is that the department can add new officers and give more specialized jobs like evidence technician. The department has 26 sworn officers with one of those at the academy this session. 

Lewsen graduated from the police academy in the fall of 1972. When he started patrolling Windham streets he was a contract deputy with the Sheriff’s Department. This was before there was a Windham Police Department, he said. Windham Police Department started in 1976 with four sworn officers.
Town manager Tony Plante commented on the two, saying, “Both Charlie and Rick should be proud of the work they’ve done, and their legacies of public service. Their deep knowledge of the community will be hard to replace, but we have time to conduct the search for their successors in a deliberate, thoughtful way.” 

“It will be a significant change for the departments and the community,” Plante said. 

He said he would be consulting with the Council about the process in the weeks to come, but that it likely would involve input from the community, department members, and other stakeholders, developing a needs assessment and candidate profile before seeking applicants. Candidates would also undergo a thorough screening, interview and evaluation process. Appointment to either of these positions by the town manager will require confirmation by the town council.

The process could take between six and nine months and Plante hopes to have extra time to effect a smooth transition of leadership. 

“I have a bucket list of seven or eight things to do to complete my task (as the fire-rescue chief),” said Hammond. 

“Their retirements will mark the start of new chapters for the police and fire-rescue departments, a chance to build on what’s been done so far and help guide the town into the future,” Plante said.

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