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McKenna retires from law enforcement after 43 years

HOULTON, Maine — The town’s former police chief and a member of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office is hanging up his gun and badge.

Terry “Joe” McKenna retired from the sheriff’s office on Friday, Dec. 28, after just under two years with the department. An informal ceremony was held Friday at the ACSO building with about 25 people attending.

“Joe brought a wealth of experience to this position,” Sheriff-elect Shawn Gillen said. “He brought a code of ethics and a level of commitment that you don’t usually see anymore. He brought a skill set to the sheriff’s office that we desperately needed at that time. He will be missed.”

McKenna was a 38-year veteran of law enforcement and resided in Winter Garden, Florida, with his wife Marty before coming to Houlton. When he took the job as police chief in Houlton in January 2014, he was retired from full-time work in law enforcement, but did some reserve work.

He was deputy sheriff/commander of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office from August 1981 to January 2006. From January 2006 to October 2009, he transitioned to a reserve deputy sheriff role with the same agency and from November 2009 until he took the post in Houlton, he served as a reserve lieutenant/law enforcement officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

McKenna served as Houlton’s police chief from Jan. 3, 2014, until Aug. 5, 2016. He was out of law enforcement for about five months when then-Sheriff Darrell Crandall approached him to join his staff in December 2016.

“Forty-three years is a long time,” McKenna said. “It was an eye-opener to learn law enforcement in a different area. I can tell you that while it is different, it is the same issues facing folks.”

Crandall, who is now commander of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, said he knew McKenna would be the perfect fit for law enforcement in The County when he interviewed him as part of a committee for the Houlton police chief post.

“The one question that sealed the deal for me, was when I asked him, “If you drive through Market Square on your way to work at 7 in the morning and see a car that’s flipped over and burning, are you going to say, ‘Oh my god!’ or will you say, ‘Oh well, it’s just one.’” Crandall said. “He didn’t answer with a yes or no, but said ‘I know things will be different (in Houlton), but you will find I can adapt very quickly to a new environment.’ That was absolutely the case.”

Crandall added that he was so impressed with McKenna that he “begged” him to come join his crew at the sheriff’s office, even going so far as to call him on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve to ask him to join.

“We hounded him,” Crandall said. “We were in a pinch and needed some help. He was exactly the right person at the right time and I appreciate all of his service to this community and country, and his friendship as well.”

McKenna lauded the staff at the sheriff’s office for making him feel like part of the family and encouraged them to stop by his home to visit whenever they wanted. He was elected to the Houlton Town Council in November of 2018.

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