SKOWHEGAN — The Skowhegan Board of Selectmen made it official Tuesday night. David Bucknam is the new police chief.

Bucknam, 47, will finish out this week on patrol duty and take over as chief on Monday. The father of two sons, Bucknam lives with his wife in Oakland, where he grew up and graduated from Messalonskee High School.

Bucknam served in the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment from 1992 to 2004. He completed a tour of duty in Iraq and left the service with the rank of sergeant first class.

Board Chairman Paul York, a member of the police chief search committee, said the committee had found the right person for the job. He also thanked Sgt. Joel Cummings, who filled in as interim chief.

“It’s very exciting,” Bucknam said of his new job. “It’s an honor. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would push myself to take on such a demanding position.”

The Police Department hired Bucknam in March. He is a former Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office detective who worked some high-profile cases, including former Chelsea Selectwoman Carole Swan‘s extortion case, a couple of gross sexual assault cases and armed robbery cases.

“He’s coming to us as a veteran; he’s also a war veteran as well,” Cummings said in March.

Cummings was the most recent person to hold the chief’s title. He declined to seek the permanent job.

Bucknam said he worked for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office for 10 years before leaving in 2015 to take a job in the private sector. He became the director of training and operations for Special Intelligence Services, based in El Paso, Texas.

“I’m back in Skowhegan because, unfortunately, the government changed in Washington, D.C., and the money dried up,” he said. “I was laid off from work.”

Bucknam said the challenges he faces in Skowhegan include plans to recruit and retain quality police officers to fill out the intended roster of 15 officers. Now the department is down three officers. His starting salary is $64,584. The Police Department budget for the current year is $1.38 million.

Bucknam completed police academy training in 2004 in Florida.

“Skowhegan is a very, very busy town,” Bucknam said. “We’re going to be working really hard to get the officers the tools, equipment and training they need to help better their jobs here so that we can fight some of the crime that has taken place here.”

He said he will work closely with the district attorney’s office so that when Skowhegan police make arrests, the charges are pushed forward and not reduced. Bucknam said the detective division is “overflowed” with working cases. The department’s detectives are Detective Sgt. Don Avery and Detective Katelyn Nichols.

Town Manager Christine Almand said there were about a dozen applicants for the police chief’s job.

“I think that the hiring committee like his leadership skills and the things he wanted to address with the department and the community,” Almand said.

Members of the search committee were Almand, Selectmen Soren Siren and Paul York, town finance director and human resource officer Trisha Austin, and Lt. Mark Brooks, commander of the Maine State Police Troop C barracks in Skowhegan.

Before Cummings took over, police Chief Don Bolduc, resigned in March to move home to Millinocket. Bolduc, who had planned to leave in April, was forced to leave early following a consensus agreement by selectmen.

Bolduc’s resignation came amid his frustration about low pay for Skowhegan patrol officers. Bolduc said the department recently lost three officers, including a detective sergeant, to other agencies that pay more money. He said starting pay for an entry-level patrol officer in Skowhegan is $16.59 per hour for the first two years, about $2.50 to $4 per hour less than other departments that are all competing to fill rosters.

Bolduc was 48 in August 2013 when he was hired as a patrol officer in Skowhegan, having been police chief in Millinocket until the paper mills closed and the population dropped. Skowhegan police Deputy Chief Dan Summers then announced he was leaving to take the police chief’s job in Lincoln, so Bolduc took over the deputy chief’s job under Chief Ted Blais.

Bolduc took over as acting chief at the end of July 2015, when Chief Ted Blais abruptly resigned.

Blais had become police chief at the University of Maine at Farmington in 2005 and then the police chief in Skowhegan in June 2013. In February 2013, Michael Emmons left the police chief’s post in Skowhegan to become chief of police at VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus campus in Augusta. Deputy Chief Dan Summers took over in the interim.

Emmons became police chief in Skowhegan in 2007 after working for the Wiscasset, Augusta and Gardiner police departments. He is a senior master sergeant with the Bangor-based 101st Security Forces Squadron of the Maine Air National Guard.

He was deployed to Southwest Asia in March 2012 for his second tour of the war-torn region and returned to work in Skowhegan in December. In his absence, then-Deputy Chief Dale Lancaster took over the day-to-day operations of the department.

Lancaster resigned in July 2013 to become chief deputy at the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department. Lancaster was elected sheriff in November 2014.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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