ew Houlton Sector Chief William Maddocks speaks at the change of command ceremony held in Fort Fairfield on Aug. 24. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — The new U.S. Customs and Border Patrol chief sworn in Tuesday will face several issues that affect Maine, including drug and gun smuggling operations from both sides of the border with Canada during his tenure in the state.

Several people in past years have attempted to smuggle items across the border, including Gabriel Wortman who committed Canada’s worst mass shooting in its history in April 2020. He had smuggled his weapons illegally into Canada after buying them in Houlton.

The Houlton sector, which includes all of Maine’s border with Canada, logged 87 apprehensions — which can include arrests and detainments — total in 2020, and so far has 53 apprehensions in 2021, according to Customs and Border Patrol.

Raul Ortiz, chief of U.S. Border Patrol, speaks during the change of command ceremony for the Houlton Sector on Aug. 24. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

William Maddocks was officially sworn in as chief of the Houlton Sector at a ceremony held at the border patrol station’s garage in Fort Fairfield. It was presided over by newly appointed chief of the U.S. Border Patrol Raul Ortiz.

Outgoing chief Jason Owens will be transferred to Washington, D.C., to instruct incoming border agents.

The proceedings included a ceremonial handing over of the border patrol flag from Owens to Maddocks, and Ortiz administering the oath of office to Maddocks.

“I am humbled and honored to be standing here in front of you today,” Maddocks said to the large but socially distanced audience of border patrol officers, family and friends. “And I don’t know if embarrassed is the right word, but to have this all on my occasion is absolutely spectacular.”

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz hands over the flag of the border patrol to newly appointed Houlton Sector Chief William Maddocks as part of a ceremonial change of command held on Aug. 24 Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

A native of New England, Maddocks has served in the U.S. Border Patrol since 1997, including in the Rio Grande Valley and Yuma, Arizona, sections of the Southwest’s border with Mexico. He has also had prior assignments in Houlton, formerly as assistant chief patrol agent of the sector as well as patrol agent in charge of the Houlton station.

For U.S. Border Chief Raul Ortiz, the event marked his first appointment of a chief patrol agent since being named national head of the border patrol in July.

“It is a great pleasure of mine as the chief of the United States Border Patrol to participate in my first chain of command for a sector chief,” Ortiz said. “This sets the bar for the remaining 19 sector chiefs, so I’ve got to do it right.”

Maddocks said his focus will not only be on protecting Maine’s borders from illegal entry and smuggling, but also on providing support operations to the southwest border with Mexico, where the migration crisis continues.

Members of U.S. Border Patrol perform a ceremonial placing of flags on stage as part of the change in command to new Houlton Sector Chief William Maddocks. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

“Border security, given all those considerations, is national security,” Maddocks said. “I look forward to working with Border Patrol headquarters in order to secure the nation by securing the borders, not just here in Houlton. As a federal agency we also have responsibility to support the highest levels of risk in the nation.”

Maddocks said the people of northern Maine was what he was looking forward to the most in returning to Houlton

“The people are always the best thing,” he said. “And the Border Patrol and the extended network that we develop with our partner agencies and our friends in the communities, all of which contribute to a healthy lifestyle and success in our mission.”