SKOWHEGAN — For now, Somerset County has two sheriffs.

That is, until midnight Wednesday, when Dale P. Lancaster, 58, of Cornville, officially takes over from retiring Sheriff Barry A. DeLong.

Lancaster was sworn in Monday afternoon as the 30th high sheriff for Somerset County since Maine gained statehood in 1820. He replaces DeLong, 66, of Madison, who retires after 41 years in law enforcement, including stints with Maine State Police and the county district attorney’s office.

Lancaster took the oath of office from executive secretary Karen Morrill with one hand raised in the air and the other on a Bible held by his wife Deborah.

DeLong, dressed in a suit and tie, then pinned the sheriff’s badge and insignia on Lancaster’s uniform. The men saluted one another and it was over.

“I want to thank everyone coming today,” Lancaster said to a sea of law enforcement officers and well-wishers in Somerset County Superior Court where the ceremony was held. “We’re going to build on what Sheriff DeLong has built over the last 20 years, and we are going to be leaders in the state of Maine. I’m humbled and I understand the responsibility that’s been entrusted upon me by the voters of this county.”

Lancaster told the assembled audience after the ceremony that he wants to make the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department a model for the state. He said he intends to start with the county jail, built in 2009.

“My vision is that we are going to be leaders in law enforcement in the state of Maine,” he said. “We’ll start with training, how we respond to the public. We’re going to be moving to the next level of law enforcement. I’m going to be moving toward having the jail nationally accredited.”

Lancaster said accreditation by the American Correctional Association will help with grants and provide the department with standardized, nationally accepted policies.

Lancaster was elected sheriff in November, coming away with 60 percent of the vote over challenger Kris McKenna, of Skowhegan, a police officer in Waterville.

Morrill also administered the oath to Lancaster’s chosen chief deputy, James Ross, 60, also of Cornville. The new command staff takes over when the clock inches past midnight into Wednesday morning.

In his remarks at the ceremony Monday, outgoing Sheriff DeLong said he has “great confidence” in Lancaster and Ross, both of whom have a wealth of experience in law enforcement.

“I know they’ll do fine,” he said. “I want to thank everyone for supporting me as your sheriff for 20 years.”

DeLong is among the eight county sheriffs, out of a total of 16 in the state, who are retiring this week.

Lancaster, the current chief deputy with 40 years in law enforcement, 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.

Also on hand for the ceremony Monday were Lancaster’s daughters, Allison, 19, and Caitlyn, 25. Kevin Brooks, of Canaan Calvary Church, the sheriff’s department chaplain, gave the benediction, and Sean Maguire, the jail’s compliance officer, read a brief statement from jail administrator Major Cory Swope.

Lancaster said that a new full-time patrol deputy will come on board Jan. 1 as part of an agreement with county commissioners, the county administrator and the county budget committee. The agreement called for financing equipment to outfit the new deputy during the first half of the fiscal year, then funding the new deputy’s salary beginning in the second half of the year.

There are a total of 100 people employed by the sheriff’s office with four detectives and nine patrol deputies, meaning that there will be three deputies for each eight-hour shift, allowing for more investigative time for daily complaints, Lancaster said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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