RANGELEY – A veteran police officer of 28 years will be taking over as Rangeley’s police chief on Monday.
Newly-appointed police Chief Russell French was sworn in at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Jan. 19. French, 55, of Kennebunk, currently serves as a lieutenant with the Kittery Police Department.
He will replace former police Chief Dennis Leahy, who retired effective Nov. 1, 2015, after nine years of service here.
French has a lot of experience in law enforcement, said Town Manager Tim Pellerin. While his years of police work are important, it is his avid interest in becoming a part of the community that sealed the deal for the hiring committee. French served as Kittery’s community policing coordinator, is an FBI Academy graduate and a Drug Abuse Resistance Education D.A.R.E. officer instructor.
“He wants to be a part of the community and that’s important,” Pellerin said. “He has what we felt we were looking for and he offered the most.” Pellerin added that the town of Kittery is much like Rangeley in that they both have a smaller year-round population and a seasonal influx of visitors.
French said when he heard about the Rangeley position opening up he found out all he could online and by talking with fellow officers who regularly travel to Rangeley in the fall for bird hunting.
“I was attracted to the area for its recreational opportunities and that it was a small community where I felt that I could put both years of law enforcement experience and community policing knowledge to good use,” French explained.
His decision to apply for the job came after he and his wife visited the area.
“The first time we passed through the mountains and took in the views, my wife was immediately “sold” on the idea of packing up and relocating. That was a huge plus. Then as I began to inquire about the position, I was amazed at how friendly and helpful the people at the Town Offices were,” he said.
A hiring committee comprised of town officials and officers from other law enforcement departments reviewed several applications and conducted interviews for the job before choosing French.
Since accepting the position, French has had a chance to eat at several restaurants, meet with realtors, walk the downtown area and drop in on several convenience stores.
“Every encounter was pleasant and I even ran into a waitress at the Red Onion who I instructed D.A.R.E. to years ago when she lived in Kittery. All of my impressions about the community were favorable, and this past weekend confirmed that I had made the right choice to accept the chief position after having the opportunity to work my first Snodeo. What a blast,” he said.
Besides meeting lots of local residents and seeing the Snodeo’s events, French was also introduced to a number of local law enforcement officers from the Warden Service, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, State Police and U.S Border Patrol.
His immediate plans on beginning his new job include building on the department’s existing relationships with the community and creating new ones, along with assessing the current possible needs of the Rangeley Police Department.
“As I begin to reach out and get to know our community members, you can expect that we will develop additional services to meet their needs as best we can. We are all in this together and I am looking forward to serving Rangeley on a full-time basis beginning February 1st,” French said.