OAKLAND — The Police Department has hired two officers to fill positions left open by a retirement and an unexpected death.

After years of having no turnover, the department lost two of its 10 officers with the April death of Officer Steven Corbett, who had been with the force for more than 10 years, and the June retirement of Harold “Dusty” Woodside, the longtime school resource officer at Messalonskee Middle School.

In June, officers Mike Sayers and Todd Burbank were hired to round out the force, Chief Mike Tracy announced.

Law enforcement was a career switch for Sayers, a tall, lanky 26-year-old whose first job, working on cars at Central Maine Toyota as a teen, went with his passion for fast vehicles.

While working there, he said, he realized “this is more of a hobby to me than what I want for a daily job.”

When he made the decision to switch over to law enforcement, he first began as a corrections officer at the Kennebec County jail. Then he put his motor vehicle skills to use, finishing first in his class at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in its emergency vehicle operations course.

Sayers, a China resident, said he would like to become an emergency vehicle driving instructor and to specialize in drug enforcement. In addition to his driving honors, he also finished first in his class in firearms proficiency.

For now, he said, he is content working on Oakland’s streets as a patrol officer and has been assigned the added duties of monitoring registered sex offenders in the town.

Sayers graduated from Lawrence High School in 2005 and Mid-Maine Technical College in 2006. He was hired by the Clinton Police Department in 2012 and has worked in Oakland in the past as a reserve officer.

He said he was drawn to the workplace atmosphere in Oakland’s department.

“I saw the camaraderie between the command staff and the officers, and that’s something I wanted to be a part of,” Sayers said.

He got a taste of the camaraderie firsthand when he was eating a bagel in his kitchen in early June, waiting to hear whether he’d beaten another finalist for the Oakland job.

Sayer got his answer from Capt. Rick Stubbert.

“I got a call from the captain saying that the other person was actually out to breakfast with the chief. Just to get my heart racing,” he said. “Shortly after that, he was like, ‘No, no, you’ve got the job.’”

Oakland’s other new hire has more experience, and a different area of interest, than Sayers.

The school resource officer position will be filled by Burbank, a 1992 Winslow High School graduate who made the switch from the Waterville Police Department, where he worked for 10 years, because, he said, he wanted to work with young people.

Burbank, whose smile softens the effect of his military-style buzz cut, shadowed Woodside during the last week of classes at Messalonskee Middle School to learn the routine. When school is not in session, he works alongside Sayers and the other patrol officers on the streets.

Burbank said he was drawn to working with children after a period, beginning in 2006, as a community officer in Waterville’s South End. Part of his duties there involved meeting children as they got off the school bus, headed for a teen center.

He said he took pride in being the first person they would see at the end of their school day.

“A lot of the time their parents weren’t home or didn’t care, but at least I was there to listen to them and help guide them,” he said.

Burbank said he enjoyed the dual responsibilities of protecting children even as he serves as a role model for them. He liked it so much that he pursued a position as Waterville’s school resource officer, a position he filled until it was eliminated.

In that position, he said, he became experienced in many  emerging issues facing young people today, including social media problems, increased levels of drug use, and child abuse, a crime that he said often goes undetected.

Both Burbank and Sayers said they plan to be with the department for a long time, which is not uncommon on the force, according to Tracy, who said a position last opened up three or four years ago.

Sayers said he sees opportunities for career advancement within the department. He plans to work his way up through the ranks to take on a supervisory position.

Burbank said he will stay for as long as he can work with children.

“I’ll be here for 30 years,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
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