Todd Pilsbury, Gardiner’s new police chief, takes the oath of office Thursday from City Clerk Kathleen Cutler at Gardiner City Hall. City councilors unanimously approved his hiring Wednesday night. Pilsbury, who began working in Gardiner 24 years ago, had been serving as the city’s interim police chief. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — Two longtime city employees have been hired to fill vacancies in city administration.

Todd Pilsbury has been hired as Gardiner’s police chief and Dawn Thistle as Gardiner Public Library director.

The Gardiner City Council endorsed those recommendations Wednesday by unanimous vote.

City Manager Andrew Carlton said he was looking forward to having Pilsbury as chief.

“I think he’s going to bring a really great, fresh perspective to the department,” Carlton said.

Pilsbury, 55, began working in Gardiner 24 years ago, after working for the Wiscasset Police Department from 1991 to 1998.


While he grew up in Augusta, Pilsbury had a lifelong connection to Gardiner, where his mother grew up and his grandparents lived.

When he considered moving on from Wiscasset, Pilsbury looked to Gardiner. He said he has found working for the city of Gardiner a great experience and never considered applying anywhere else.

“I stayed here because of the chiefs we’ve had, the city and the people in it,” he said before the meeting. “I have several really close friends here and relationships I’ve garnered over the years.”

Pilsbury said transparency with officers and keeping them involved are important.

“I can’t do it by myself. I want all the officers, no matter if they’ve only been here six months or 17 years, to have a say and know what’s going on and take their input,” he said. “Someone who’s been here 32 years may have a different outlook from someone who is brand new. You can’t discount their say and how they feel.”

Pilsbury was named interim chief following the January retirement of longtime chief James Toman.


In Gardiner, as elsewhere, hiring police officers has been a challenge, and the city has been offering bonuses to new officers. Since his interim appointment, Pilsbury has been working on ways to recruit more officers.

He was sworn in at 11 a.m. Thursday. His annual salary will be $85,000.

“I’m excited to have Dawn (Thistle) take over the Gardiner Public Library,” Carlton said. “It has had two directors in the last 35 years. The library is run very well, and Dawn will continue that and bring some great ideas to the library.”

Dawn Thistle (File photo)

Thistle’s path to becoming a librarian was not a direct one.

The Gardiner Public Library was the library Thistle used when she grew up in Chelsea, and she continued to use it when attending school in Gardiner.

While she has always loved libraries and worked at the library at New York University while studying there, it did not occur to her that she wanted to be a librarian until after she spent years doing other things, including working for an advertising agency, serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer and working in a number of capacities at Spurwink, which provides behavioral health and education services for children, adults and families.


“I can’t believe that all those years, when I had library cards and I would go to the library, it didn’t occur to me until 2006 that that’s what I really wanted to do,” she said. “Once I started it, there was no turning back. It’s been wonderful.”

Once she completed her master’s degree at Simmons College in Boston, she was hired as director of the Vassalboro Public Library, where she worked for a decade. While working there, she also worked as librarian at Gardiner Regional Middle School, and part time at the Gardiner Public Library, first on a temporary basis, then a permanent basis. Eventually, she became a full-time employee and has overseen the library’s extensive archive collection.

Thistle was named assistant library director in July 2021, following the retirement of Scott Handville, who worked at the library for four decades. In January, she was appointed interim library director after the resignation of Justin Hoenke, who was director for about 14 months.

The Gardiner Public Library serves Gardiner, Farmingdale, Litchfield, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner.

As Carlton noted Wednesday, Thistle is close to completing her doctoral degree in library science.

A reception for Thistle is planned for 1 p.m. Monday in the Hazzard Reading Room at the Gardiner Public Library at 152 Water St. Her annual salary will be $76,000.

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