The chief deputy at the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department and a Waterville police officer will square off on election day in the race for Somerset County sheriff.

Sheriff Barry DeLong is not seeking another term after 20 years in office and will retire at the end of the year. The term of office is for four years.

Dale Lancaster, 58, of Cornville, the current chief deputy, was a major when he retired in 2011 after 27 years with Maine State Police. He also was commander of the Major Crimes Unit for the state police in southern Maine. He has been in law enforcement for 40 years.

Kris McKenna, 38, of Skowhegan, says he believes it is time for a change of direction at the sheriff’s department. He said his ideas for cutting spending while improving patrol service include ending the practice of providing county-issued vehicles for the sheriff and chief deputy while not on duty — and sharing calls with state police on a daily basis.

“I’m a very outside-of-the-box thinker. I’m an innovative thinker,” McKenna said. “If I have something that I want to do — there’s a lot of drive in me — I put a lot of creative energy into doing it.”

McKenna, who grew up in Old Town, has worked as a patrol officer in Waterville since 2006. He is a 2001 graduate of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. He also is active in the arts, writing and making short films. He was a patrol deputy, corrections officer and dispatcher in Somerset County from 1999 to 2006 and said he has been exposed to all aspects of county policing in those positions.

Lancaster stands by his 40 years of experience in law enforcement as qualifying him for the sheriff’s position. He said his qualifications for sheriff also include experience and training in human resources, financial budgets, employee contracts and internal affairs.

“My whole adult life, I have lived in Somerset County and policed mostly in Somerset County. I patrolled, I was detective, a sergeant and a troop commander in Somerset County.” Lancaster said. “I will predicate my term of office on integrity, respect, fairness and dedication.”

Lancaster started his law enforcement career as a Somerset County sheriff’s deputy, working as a jailer and dispatcher in 1974. He worked the sheriff’s department’s night patrol after graduating from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy the following year.

He also was a Skowhegan police officer, becoming a sergeant before joining the Maine State Police in 1984. He later was commander of state police Troop C barracks in Skowhegan before he was promoted in 2007 to the rank of major, overseeing state police field troops and criminal divisions.

In December 2008, Lancaster completed an 11-week leadership academy at the FBI’s National Academy in Quantico, Va. He was appointed chief deputy in Somerset County in July 2012.

Lancaster is a certified police chief/sheriff and corrections officer, was a canine handler and a member of the state police tactical team, and was trained in the Incident Command System for emergency response.

He also is a member of a working group of county sheriffs negotiating with the state Board of Corrections about changes in Maine law regarding operation of the state’s 15 county jails.

The county administrator said earlier this year that there has been a 63 percent increase in domestic violence calls in the county, and the sheriff’s department says it needs more men on the ground.

McKenna said the county can not afford to hire more patrol deputies and that there is a better way to handle the increase in crime — get state police to share some of the calls.

“You can call-share with the State Police. You’re already paying for that service. Your taxpayer dollars are already being paid to the state police and they are not taking calls,” he said. “The county has said no. It’s a contest, I think. It doesn’t serve the community.”

Lancaster disagrees, saying the existing relationship with state police on patrol is effective. He said a compromise earlier this year to hire a new deputy beginning Jan. 1 will add service to the community.

“This position will allow the department to have three deputies per shift for 4,000 square miles,” Lancaster said.

Lancaster said the idea of call-sharing is flawed.

He said state police and the sheriff’s department have each other’s radio frequencies, and if there is a real safety issue, the closest unit will respond.

McKenna said relations between police and the communities would improve if he is elected sheriff. Those relations require problem solvers with outreach programs to deal with conflict and conflict resolution, both on the road and in the county jail, he said. McKenna said he would implement those innovations if elected.

He added that the county could save $80,000 by not issuing the sheriff and the chief deputy a vehicle to ride back and forth to work in and use that money to hire reserve deputies to fill the gaps in call response by putting “boots on the ground.”

The sheriff’s department employs about 100 people on the sheriff’s patrol, the criminal division, civil division, court security and operations and at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, the state’s second largest jail. The sheriff oversees a $16.8 million jail budget, which is subject to approval by the state Board of Corrections and acceptance by the county commissioners, and a $1.8 million law enforcement budget, which is subject to county Budget Committee approval and acceptance by the commissioners.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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