Monday night, town officials from Windham gathered at the Windham Town Hall to honor and celebrate the career of Windham Police Chief Rick Lewsen.
With a staff of 31, Lewsen has grown the Windham Police Department from four officers when he first started. Now there are two chiefs for a few more days. “I’m the senior chief, in case you’re wondering,” Lewsen told the group gathered. He said he is looking forward to retirement and has a long list of projects to do. He officially retires on May 1.
“I’ll miss the comradery the most. I’ll miss the people,” he said.
In attendance were the first Windham Police chief Greg Hanscom, Sheriff Kevin Joyce and Lewsen’s wife, Karen, among others, including Ron Shepard, Lewsen’s roommate from the police academy class of 1972 and new Windham police chief Kevin Schofield.
“Having a police chief like Rick Lewsen as a member of your team is something everyone should have the benefit of. I wish you well,” said town manager Tony Plante.
When Hanscom hired Lewsen, he was already a familiar face in the community having worked the streets as a deputy sheriff and being a resident of the town.
He set expectations that officers would be friendly, trustworthy, honest - he paved the way for the attributes of all of his officers, said Hanscom.
There are only a minority of officers who have worked for another chief, Sgt. Jason Andrews pointed out.
The department and officers gave gifts to Lewsen. Officer Jim Cook’s brother made a wooden case to put Lewsen’s gun in. The officers had his gun gilded in gold and put an outline drawing of the Windham badge on it.
“OMG,” was all Lewsen said when he saw the gift. “I can’t believe that gun,” he said after the presentation. He plans to keep the gun in the box and not carry it after he retires.
Officer Matt Cyr pointed out that the chief was missing some gear from his uniform, but for a good cause. They found their way into a case that was filled with all of the Windham Police Department patches, the name tag Lewsen had worn since he started as a sheriff, and his Windham badge and a deputy sheriff badge, all representing the 38 years in law enforcement. “He had more hair when he started,” said Roger Timmons.
He was also presented a model of the latest Windham police car. Jokes were made that the chief hadn’t lost his name tag in all the years on the job. “Yes, but I lose my keys all the time,” he said with a laugh.
“You gave almost every single one of us in the room a job,” Cyr said. “Thank you very much and thank you for your service.”
Sgt. Bill Andrew gave Lewsen a Tile, which put with an app on his phone will help him locate his keys. “This references back to a comment you made before,” Andrew said.
Lewsen addressed the crowd, making sure to mention all of the officers and civilian personnel who work for him. He also acknowledged Dave DeGruchy who retired in January.
“Dave, thank you so much for supporting the department,” Lewsen said.
“He set a good standard for police departments with honesty and integrity. Kevin [Schofield] will do the same. He’s a good match for the department. Rick leaves behind a good department,” DeGruchy said.
Sheriff Joyce presented Lewsen with a plaque. “He really fostered a lot of partnerships. Long before we had a regional tactical team, he would share resources,” Joyce said. It wasn’t uncommon back 15 to 20 years ago for a Windham officer to back up a deputy sheriff in Naples. “He understood that you’re the only person there for miles.”
Lewsen said one of the highlights of his career was attending the FBI National Academy in 1991. He brought back a lot of information to help the department, he said.
At the end of the party, Bev Varney, one of the original Windham dispatchers, came to wish Lewsen well in his retirement.
“He’s done a great job and I hope he flourishes in retirement,” said town council chair Dave Nadeau.
“It’s going to be interesting [having him home],” said his wife Karen.
Lewsen hopes to plan a trip to St. Martin between trips to their camp in Greenville.