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Col. Jon Cornish Retires After 34 Years

Col. Jon Cornish

DMR bid farewell to Col. Cornish in early April. DMR photo.

Colonel Jon Cornish retired as chief of the Marine Patrol Bureau in the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) on April 5. Cornish served in the Bureau for 34 years, entering soon after graduating from college with a degree in criminal law. “It’s bittersweet,” Cornish said in an interview shortly before his departure. “I am going to miss the people at DMR, the fishermen who call me.” He is succeeded in the post by Lieutenant Jay Carroll.

Colonel Cornish began his career in the Marine Patrol in 1985 as an Officer. In 2001 he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and in 2004 to Lieutenant in Division I, which includes the Maine coast from Kittery to the St. George River. Cornish was promoted to Colonel in 2015. “I’m grateful for Colonel Cornish’s decades of exceptional service,” said Commissioner Keliher. “He has shown great commitment and judgement throughout his career and has guided the Marine Patrol with a steady hand as Colonel.” At the time he graduated from college, one of Cornish’s relatives was working for DMR in the anadromous fish office and mentioned to him that there were good jobs to be had in the Marine Patrol Bureau. “I had no idea what the Bureau was,” Cornish admitted. “I applied and that’s where I ended up.” While he had always been interested in law enforcement, becoming a Marine Patrol officer required a certain period of apprenticeship. During his first year in the field he was patrolling out of Rockland when the boat broke down during an October storm. The rising waves eventually began to swamp the vessel. The crew called for the Coast Guard and a helicopter was sent out but before it reached them, a boat from Rockland managed to reach the boat. “I thought, ‘Is this it for me?’ There’ve been other rough times at sea but nothing as bad as that,” Cornish said. Throughout his years at the Bureau, Cornish found mentors who helped him grow professionally. “I had great support early on from Ron Muir, he’s gone now. And Jim Peva was my first sergeant when I was in Bucksport. He certainly gave me the benefit of the doubt,” Cornish laughed. When Cornish was stationed in Harpswell Dave Mercier served as a mentor as well as his supervisor, Dan Morris. “I have to mention Joe Fessenden. He was Colonel throughout my whole career and he was instrumental in my becoming Colonel,” Cornish said. “Rene Cloutier has been incredibly supportive. He has a great level of common sense that I wish I had!” What these men all have in common, according to Cornish, is a deep respect for the commercial fishing industry, a respect that they passed on to the young Cornish. It’s that recognition of the tenacity and independence of Maine fishermen in whatever fishery they pursue that Cornish has tried to instill in the officers that have served under him. “The majority of fishermen are the salt of the earth, hardworking and honest,” Cornish said. “There’s a small percentage that aren’t. Those are the ones we spend the most time dealing with.” Over the years Cornish has overseen the prosecution on many violations related to lobster fishing, everything from molesting traps to harvesting hundreds of female lobsters. He recognizes that most lobstermen appreciate the Bureau’s efforts to punish those who break the rules, keeping the playing field as even as possible for everyone. “Most officers understand that they are overseeing people’s livelihoods. They take it seriously. After all, we are public servants,” he said. Cornish has no definitive plans for the future, other than to enjoy the Maine summer. “I have a lot of confidence in my successors. We have great people here. It’s important that the Bureau continue to grow and head in the right direction.”

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