HOULTON, Maine — Town councilors on Monday evening approved the hiring of a 38-year Florida law enforcement veteran to take the helm of the Houlton Police Department.
The move came after some discussion and questions about what certification Terry “Joe” McKenna, 57, of Winter Garden, Florida, will need to get from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in the next year to be certified as an officer in Maine.
McKenna was the top candidate among 12 who applied for the position, Town Manager Butch Asselin told councilors. McKenna rose to the top after twice visiting the town to meet with staff at the police department and for interviews that were conducted by a panel consisting of town officials and law enforcement personnel from several local and state branches and departments.
McKenna will replace Asselin, who became interim town manager in April after former manager Gene Conlogue resigned. Asselin then was officially named the new town manager in July.
Asselin has continued to perform some police chief duties, with significant assistance from Lt. Dan Pelletier.
The new chief will receive a starting salary of $65,000.
McKenna has spent the past five years as a reserve lieutenant for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, receiving an outstanding service award from the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association for that jurisdiction in 2012. He started his law enforcement career in Florida with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in 1976, and has also worked as a trooper for the Florida Highway Patrol and as commander of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Asselin said McKenna is college educated with a long list of credentials and certifications.
Despite his experience in Florida, McKenna will still need to pursue additional certification from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro to comply with law enforcement requirements in Maine and to familiarize himself with differences in the laws.
Upon questioning from councilors, Asselin speculated the new chief would need to learn more about Maine’s domestic violence laws and accident investigation. The training will be paid for by the town. He said he does not believe McKenna will have to attend the Basic Law Enforcement Training Program, which is an 18-week residential program. The academy accepts similar programs for officers who are trained in other states, according to its website.
McKenna was not at the meeting, but watched online. He was welcomed to the town by Council Chairman Wade Hanson and Asselin again stated how impressed he was with the new chief.
McKenna’s wife, Marty, is a retired police officer from Massachusetts, and the couple has already rented a home in town.
His first day is Jan. 5.