ROCKLAND — “I particularly want to be supportive of our new sheriff,” said County Commissioner Dorothy Meriwether. “The County is on the front line in addressing the addiction crisis in our community. Funding of our jails continues to be a strain on the system, and I hope to see an emphasis on criminal justice reform [in the near future].”
Monday, Dec. 31, several hours before Mainers usher in a new year, the officials helping to maintain order at the county level joined together as a new team.
At the 9 a.m. Swearing-in Ceremony in the Commissioners Hearing Room at the Knox County Courthouse, Meriwether took her oath as commissioner for District 1. Timothy Carroll took the reins as sheriff. Carol Emery, who first accepted the position of Judge of Probate in 1991, returned for another term.
During the same ceremony, Patrick Polky stepped from lieutenant to deputy chief of Knox County Sheriff’s Office. The wives of Polky and Carroll then took a moment to pin new badges to their husbands’ lapels.
Carroll, an employee of Knox County Sheriff's Office for almost 10 years and an administrator of the agency for most of that, has already begun addressing the opioid problem in Knox County. In regards to the jail, he plans to partner with “the right local organizations and care providers” to help curb those substance-use disorders that lead to recidivism and ultimately costs the taxpayers more money, according to him.
”This is going to be a focus from the administration coming into Augusta and I want to make sure we're a part of that process,” he said.
“I think an asset that this county has is our willingness to work closely with other local law enforcement agencies. Chief Young [Rockland], Chief Gagne [Camden/Rockport], Chief Hoppe [Thomaston] and I are in constant communication working with each other. That will also translate into working closely with the other department heads within the county government to better show the people all the services that Knox County provides to its citizens.”
Meriwether, also, expressed a desire to conduct many conversations with Knox County municipalities and state representatives.
“I hope to find ways that we can – together – improve the delivery of services aiming for efficiency and excellence,” she said, in an interview prior to the swearing in ceremony.
Along with advocating for law enforcement and corrections, Meriwether also mentioned the desire to work closely with the Communications Department, ensuring that dispatchers are getting all the support they need to do their critical jobs.
“I am fortunate to have served for 10 years on the County Budget Committee, so I’m already familiar with many of the issues and people in county government,” she said. “But my first priority is to go slow and learn with an open and supportive attitude.
“We all recognize the burden on our taxpayers, and I will always keep that foremost, working with the department heads to keep costs down while providing quality service for our community,” Meriwether said.
For Carroll, and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, their department budget is an issue, as well.
Carroll said, in an interview prior to the event: “On the Patrol side, we have concentrated on hiring good people and we have done the right things to attract those people. The budget committee has been supportive of making sure we have competitive wages and good equipment to do our job and we have worked hard at being sensitive to appropriately spending the taxpayers dollars.
“Like all of law enforcement, we are also having a hard time recruiting people that want to be in the profession. Being short handed has not lowered our level of professionalism that the people have come to expect from our deputies. I want to continue supporting them for doing the great job they do in an ever increasing tough atmosphere to be a law enforcement officer. Continued training is essential.”
The mutual support proved evident during today’s swearing-in, as Carroll thanked the multiple members of the Sheriff’s Office who attended the ceremony. Some of them were on duty. Others, off duty and on holiday, still donned their uniforms for the event.
And, because support generally begins at home, Carroll thanked his family.
“My mom, my two sisters; thanks for all of the support,” he said. “My wife. And my son. And my daughter, who is in California. Thank you to friends and family for all of the support.”
Judge Emery steps into the Knox County scene from the justice avenue.
According to Emery, the Maine Legislature enacted a new Probate Code that will come into effective July, 2019.
“There are many changes in this Code to the existing law that has been effective for the past 25 years,” she said in an email. “Therefore, the obvious goal for the first six months of this new term is to become familiar with the new Code and all its changes to Maine probate law. I also want to be sure that the Knox County Probate office is updating its technology so as to better serve our Court users.”
In regards to Corrections, Carroll intends to continue to support corrections officers in what they do on a daily basis. Though the current crew does their job very well, it’s still a very tough job, he said.
“There will be some changes in administration this year at the jail and I need to make sure the officers have the support and abilities to continue being progressive and properly trained,” he said.
According to Carroll, jail funding is always an issue when trying to obtain finances from the state.
“I hope [that] with Warden Liberty (a former Sheriff) taking the helm at the Department of Corrections as Commissioner, he understands and will help the counties with this never ending battle the counties collectively have to fight for every year.
“We're in good shape in Knox County, but I will be there to assure Knox County gets what it should from the State,” he said.
A statement from Carroll’s campaign:
Good law enforcement requires exceptional service with a common-sense approach....I have tried to be fair with every encounter I have handled in over 25 years of law enforcement service. Every interaction is an opportunity to enhance the quality of life for a citizen. Leadership that fosters a spirit of knowing when to be firm and when to be compassionate, would be one of my priorities as Sheriff."
Be progressive, be accessible and be understanding are attitudes I wish to mentor to the people I am fortunate to work with every day at the Sheriff's Office.