Eliot Police Chief Theodor Short has been hired to lead both the Eliot and Kittery police departments.
Short has been police chief in Eliot for nine years and has served as the interim chief in Kittery for six months. When his contract with Kittery was signed this week, Short became what is believed to be the first chief in Maine to simultaneously lead two police departments on a permanent basis.
The Eliot Board of Selectmen finalized its side of the agreement last week.
“The police stations are four miles apart, so it’s pretty easy for me to go back and forth between the two. It really doesn’t make any difference what building I’m in,” Short said. “I’ve enjoyed being involved with both communities and this takes it to another level.”
Short became interim police chief in Kittery when Chief Paul Callaghan resigned in December. Callaghan told town officials that he was leaving because a dispute with the police union over changes in policies he wanted to implement wasn’t likely to end soon.
The police union had taken a vote of no confidence in Callaghan.
Under terms of Short’s three-year contract, Kittery will pay 60 percent of his $110,000 annual salary, said Dan Blanchette, administrative assistant for Eliot. The other 40 percent will come from Eliot, and the towns will evenly split the cost of Short’s benefits.
Short, who previously worked with the Maine State Police for 22 years, said sharing resources between the two departments is nothing new. The towns share emergency dispatch and their detectives often work together on cases, he said.
“Because we’re border towns, all the officers understand if the other needs a hand or something is going on, they’re free to cross back and forth to help each other out,” Short said.
While the departments work together, Short said it is important for each department to maintain its own identity. The departments deal with different issues, which is natural given the differences in the towns, he said.
Eliot, with just under 7,000 people, is “more of a bedroom community” without beaches and hotels, while Kittery’s population of 10,000 grows considerably during the tourist season. Kittery also is home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and outlet malls. Eliot has nine police officers and Kittery has 18.
Short said he has been impressed with the staff of each department, and the support in the towns for consolidating the chief position.
“To have the support of both communities to create a venture like this, that hasn’t taken place in the state of Maine, is unique,” he said. “I hope to not just make sure both organizations meet their goals and maintain standards of professionalism, but create an environment where the towns want to continue to share a police chief beyond the time I’m here.
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at firstname.lastname@example.org