Aroostook County sheriff retires to help run popular Presque Isle restaurant

9 months ago

Aroostook County Sheriff Shawn Gillen is retiring to go into the restaurant business.

Contrary to a report from the Aroostook County Democratic Committee that said he resigned, Gillen said he is retiring on Sept. 1 after 30 years in law enforcement.

“I’m not resigning. I’m actually retiring,” Gillen said. “Another opportunity has come up that basically I just can’t pass up, and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do. I’m not under any pressure to resign because I’ve done something wrong.”

Gillen and partners Travis Kearney and Josh Tweedie have bought the Irish Setter Pub in Presque Isle, he said.

The committee put out the news prematurely, he said. He feared abrupt news of his departure would lead people to believe he’d been involved in wrongdoing, particularly in light of recent news that Oxford County Sheriff Chrisopher Wainwright sold guns that were evidence in crimes.

The Bangor Daily News confirmed that no cases were filed against Gillen in Aroostook County courts.  

The Aroostook County Democratic Committee said Gillen was resigning in a press release Tuesday morning. The group later said the sheriff retired. 

“The chair, Jackie Reader, incorrectly sent out a press release stating that he resigned,” the committee said in an unsigned email. 

Though he wanted to finish his term out, the chance to partner in the restaurant venture came up earlier than he expected, Gillen said. He was afraid if he waited another three years, he’d miss out.

Gillen started as interim sheriff in March 2018, when former sheriff Darrell Crandall retired and returned to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency as its commander.

Shawn Gillen was elected sheriff for the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2022.

Gillen won the post for another four years in November 2018 with 66.9 percent of the vote, beating out former Presque Isle Police Chief Matt Irwin, who garnered 33.1 percent. 

He ran uncontested in November and was re-elected to the post for a four-year term, which would expire in 2026. 

The decision to retire was difficult but supported by family and friends, he said in a resignation letter to Gov. Mills, dated Aug. 6.  

“I have been with the Sheriff’s Office for 30 years, doing every job we have to offer. Never did I think when I started as a part-time corrections officer that I would ever have the honor to one day be elected to run this office of amazing people,” the letter stated.

His new career path will be exciting and challenging, he wrote, adding he had also informed the County Democratic Committee.

Under Maine law, the governor must appoint someone enrolled in the same political party as the departing sheriff, until a new successor is chosen by election. The governor will choose from people recommended by the party’s county committee.

Chief Deputy Joey Seeley will act as sheriff at the time of Gillen’s departure until an appointment is made. That person will serve until an election for sheriff next year, Gillen said.

The Aroostook County Democratic Committee will meet Aug. 27 and hold a caucus via Zoom. Interested candidates for sheriff must be registered Democrats and should email with their resume and a cover statement, chair Jackie Reader said in the committee’s press release. Reader thanked Gillen for his years of service and dedication to public safety.

The decision to leave the post was the hardest one he’s ever made, and it’s been very emotional for him and his family, Gillen said. 

“We have some of the finest corrections officers, deputies, caseworkers, dispatchers, and administrative assistants anywhere. Their dedication, sacrifices and hard work are the reason why we are where we are today,” he said later Tuesday. “I’m proud to live in Aroostook County, and I will never be able to thank you enough for allowing me to be your sheriff.”

He and Tweedie also operate a barbecue truck called Hometown Proud.

Remodeling is ongoing at the former Irish Setter Pub, Gillen said. An opening date has not been determined.
The restaurant opened in 2006 and served the area for more than 15 years before it closed in November.