Ken Mason, the incumbent sheriff of Kennebec County, is running for reelection and he’s being challenged by Michael Sayers, a patrol officer in the Oakland Police Department and a certified instructor in the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

Mason said he’s running for a second term because “I love what I do, and I’m good at it.”

“If you enjoy what you do, you should continue enjoying it, and continue doing it,” he said.

Sayers said he’s running to change the sheriff’s office by bringing its approach to law enforcement to a contemporary standard. He went to work for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office as a corrections officer in the jail under then-Sheriff Randall Liberty in 2007.

“I saw the things he was doing to make the sheriff’s office better, and I was like: I want to be part of that,” Sayers said.

The Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, with a budget of $9.6 million and 110 employees, has both a law enforcement division that includes patrol and criminal investigation, and a corrections division that operates the Kennebec County jail. The jail accounts for about 73% of the budget for the Sheriff’s Office, which is turn is about 70% of the county’s $13.6 million budget.

Mason is running this time, as he did four years ago, as an independent candidate. Rather than appearing on a party ticket in a primary election, Mason had to collect signatures to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

As an independent, he said, he’s able to get support from both Democrats and Republicans because his job in law enforcement is not political.

Before he was elected in 2016, Mason had sought to be considered as a candidate to fill out Liberty’s unexpired term when the sheriff was appointed to serve as warden of the Maine State Prison in Warren.

Former Gov. Paul LePage appointed Mason after a showdown with the Kennebec County Democratic Committee over the number of candidates to be considered. The county committee had forwarded only one name for consideration, but LePage insisted on having two. At the time, Mason withdrew, but later that year ran for the seat as an independent, beating Ryan Reardon, chief deputy under Liberty who had served as interim sheriff after being appointed by LePage.

Because he’s running as a party candidate, Sayers’ name appeared on the Democratic ballot at the statewide primary in July. While he was unopposed at that level, 11,304 county residents cast ballots for him.

“I appreciate the support I have received, especially during a time when Democrats and Republicans are not getting along well,” he said. “But I have Democrats, Republicans, independents and unenrolled people supporting me, requesting signs, sending me messages, saying that they don’t vote party line and they have chosen the best person, and that person is me.”

Leading up to the primary, the Thomas F. Malloy Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 issued a brief statement that a majority vote of its members — including patrol deputies, patrol supervisors, detectives and transport deputies — had voted to endorse Sayers in the race. The union currently has 27 members, although it had fewer members at the time of the vote.

“I take a lot of pride in the fact that these people have put their faith in me and I am not going to let them down,” he said.

Sayers said if he’s elected, he plans to name Christopher Cowan as his chief deputy. Cowan has served in the sheriff’s office for 17 years in positions of increasing authority from deputy to captain until he left the sheriff’s office in 2018. He currently works for the Oakland Police Department.

Mason said that members of the lodge had endorsed his opponent, but not the majority.

“Some of the lodge members worked with my challenger and like him. That’s OK,” he said. “I knew that would happen and it is what it is.”

On Saturday, the union confirmed that a majority did vote to endorse Sayers; three did not vote and could not be counted as yes or no votes.

Mason said his years of experience and strength of his resume make him stand out against his competitor.

“I am working on my 34th year in law enforcement, 16 of that in executive leadership positions, either as sheriff or chief deputy,” he said.

 

LEADERSHIP STYLES

Mason was first elected four years ago, after serving for 12 years as chief deputy in the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

While in office, Mason said he has worked to change the culture in the department.

“What I’ve really done is, I have tried to get my people to understand that our jobs here are to serve the people of Kennebec County and the visitors that we get here,” he said. “And I think that has changed significantly.”

Mason said he’s also proud of the connections the sheriff’s office has made with other other law enforcement agencies in Kennebec County and the help it’s been able to offer through its two police dogs.

On the jail side, he said he has worked to add corrections officers to bring the Kennebec County Correctional Facility to be fully staffed and to cut the overtime paid out.

In the next four years, Mason said he plans to work on the level of service he demands from his staff, and he’ll do a lot of community policing.

“I’ll get tired of sitting behind that desk and I’ll just go out and drive around and talk to people, ask them, you know, what do you need?” he said. “How do you think we can improve?”

Talking with the public is also something Mason said he encourages his deputies to do, as well as stopping off at schools in the district to see how things are going.

Sayers said with Liberty’s example and his long-term goal in mind, he said, he has pursued positions to give himself a range of experience in the department. After four months at the jail, he was promoted to a front-line supervisor. After several years in that position, he served as a transport deputy and a patrol deputy.

In 2009, Sayers became a certified instructor at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, a position he still holds.

“I have taken on multiple specialties and academy instruction. From my standpoint, it’s a leadership tool I enjoy,” he said. “I think it’s great to be able to go in there and see the new police officers coming in and be able to train them, and to stay up to date on current policies and procedures, relay that to them and give them their best chance in their career.”

After leaving the sheriff’s office two years ago, Sayers worked as a police officer in Winslow and in Oakland, where he’s currently a full-time patrol officer. And to round out his experience, he has worked as an independent contractor in civil paperwork service.

Over the summer, Sayers took part in a 10-week leadership academy to continue to build his skills and to stay current with standards.

He said he has a three-part vision to make the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office the best police agency in Maine.

“I want people to want to come and work for me,” Sayers said, “but I also want the community to have the most trust and respect for us as possible, and we will show that right back.”

He said his three-part vision for the department includes incorporating the best training to ensure the employees of the sheriff’s office are providing the best service to the community they serve, including how to combat racism or use of force training among others.

If elected, Sayers said he plans to form a sheriff’s advisory panel made up of both law enforcement and community members to meet regularly to bring a wider field of perspectives to county law enforcement and to review trending problems.

“It’s a great community tool,” he said. “It gets the community involved and it makes their voice heard.” 

The third part of Sayers’s vision is promoting teamwork throughout the department.

“I want to stand with Chris Cowan as the leaders of the agency and know that I have the respect from the people that work for me. And I want it to be contagious,” he said. “I want everyone to work as a team.”

 

CANDIDATE BACKGROUNDS

Born in Augusta, Mason grew up in Farmingdale and graduated from Hall-Dale High School in 1981. From there, he entered the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served five years. In his final two years, he was a drill instructor while stationed in San Diego.

When he returned to Maine, he briefly worked at the Kennebec County jail under Sheriff Frank Hackett before joining the Augusta Police Department, where he worked for 18 years, as a patrolman and as a field training officer. Once he was hired in Lincoln County, Mason spent a week at the FBI leader development course in Connecticut.

While he’d had no supervisory training before then, he found he was familiar with the concepts thanks to his time as a field training officer.

Mason lives in Readfield with his wife, Joanne. They have three grown children and two grandchildren.

Sayers graduated from Lawrence High School in Fairfield in 2005 and concurrently attended the Mid-Maine Technical Center in 2004-05. Through his career, he has taken trainings at the academy and offsite supervisory use-of-force trainings.

Sayers lives in Rome with his wife and two children.

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