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FROM THE DOCK: MANY THANKS TO MAINE'S LOBSTERMEN

It is a two-way street. We are there to protect the fishermen’s livelihood and they, in turn, have always been there for Patrol. While there are many others, three significant examples illustrate the support that the Maine fishing industry has afforded DMR and Marine Patrol. Back in 1992 during very difficult budgetary cuts, seven Marine Patrol Officers received layoff letters, 15% of our workforce. I was one of them. We were told that unless funding could be found to support our positions we would be laid off the following year. It was a difficult time for many of us and although we were told that leadership felt that it would work out, we were less than confident in our futures. Many of us began looking for other work. As the word got out there was a groundswell of support for Patrol from industry. Fishermen recognized the importance of having a healthy Marine Patrol with the ability to properly regulate fishing activities. In short order they supported a large increase in license fees in order to support DMR and the Bureau. No jobs were lost and most of those officers dedicated the rest of their careers to the Marine Patrol in support of the fishermen along the coast of Maine. In 2000, the Maine Marine Patrol was operating with a 25 years in, age 62 retirement system. Most other law enforcement agencies had superior plans. A bill to improve retirement was crafted and debated at the legislature. When the bill was presented before the Appropriations Committee several fishermen came to testify in favor. Arthur “Sparky” Pierce, Proctor Wells from Phippsburg, and the late Ted Bear from Bailey Island testified on Patrol’s behalf. Their testimony really carried the day. One senior legislator commented to me that “those are the citizens that we want to hear from. Their testimony really made the difference.” After a long, drawn-out legislative process during which fishermen from up and down Maine’s coast contacted their representatives supporting Patrol, the bill improving Marine Patrol’s retirement system passed, changing the lives of many current and future Marine Patrol Officers and their families in a positive way. Then this past winter and spring found our Bureau faced with the problem of recruitment and retention of qualified officers. Despite a concerted ongoing effort to recruit prospective candidates for Patrol positions, we were experiencing very low application numbers. In addition we had lost five officers over the past few months to other law enforcement agencies that paid much higher salaries. That combined with the requirement that officers live on the coast within their Patrol areas challenged many officers’ ability to make a living and support families. We had seen salaries diminish due to lack of merit-based increases in recent years. These issues plagued not only Patrol, but other state law enforcement agencies as well. We had all simply fallen behind to a point where it was having a serious impact. In particular fishermen in southern Maine were most deeply affected as the turnover in York and southern Cumberland County was high. At one time we only had two officers covering six Patrol areas. Fishermen in that region were far from happy and were not shy about insisting that Marine Patrol do something to improve these conditions. It was a very frustrating time with fishermen insisting that DMR provide additional assistance to officers in those high rent areas and Marine Patrol wrestling and failing to find a suitable solution. Fortunately after many internal and external discussions Commissioner Keliher approached Governor LePage with the issue and salary adjustment legislation to aid in recruitment and retention was introduced.

...again representatives from the fishing community carried the day. Despite a severe storm they showed up in Augusta this winter and testified for four hours in favor of the important legislation. There was a great deal of effort put into this bill from within DMR and from outside the agency, but again representatives from the fishing community carried the day. Despite a severe storm they showed up in Augusta this winter and testified for four hours in favor of the important legislation. Many who could not get there wrote impressive letters of support and made calls to legislators. At a follow-up Appropriations Committee session Representative John Martin of Eagle Lake commented that he had received the most supportive calls from citizens supporting Marine Patrol. Many fishermen and industry representatives testified for other state law enforcement agencies about the bill. Industry was there again when needed most and it made a world of difference not only for the bill’s passage, but in the lives of many Marine Patrol Officers and other state law enforcement professionals. At the time, we had two young officers considering transfers to municipal agencies. After the bill’s passage both stayed with Patrol. We could be down to just three vacancies this summer with full capacity in southern Maine. We still have a good deal of work to do, but we feel like we have turned the corner. A huge thanks from Maine Marine Patrol to all of you who had our back yet again. Sincerely, Colonel Jonathan B. Cornish Maine Marine Patrol

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