A hotly contested race for sheriff in Cumberland County will be decided in the June 10 primary, when two Democrats who have each worked in law enforcement for decades square off with no one to face the victor in the November general election.

The race pits first-term incumbent Sheriff Kevin Joyce, who rose through the ranks starting as patrol deputy in 1986 to reach the department’s top post in 2011, against Michael Edes, a retired Maine State Police sergeant who served as labor leader for the rank-and-file as president of the state troopers’ union for 16 years.

The sheriff oversees the county jail, which houses between 450 and 500 inmates at any given time; patrol deputies serving 14 county towns that have no police department; a detectives division; civil processing services; and the transport of inmates to court.

Joyce touts his long management experience, overseeing the department’s 255 employees and $20 million budget not only as sheriff, but as chief deputy under former Sheriff Mark Dion from 2003 to 2010.

“I know the agency inside and out. I bring the honesty and transparency to the table,” Joyce said. “I’m running on me.”

Edes contends that Joyce has “lost touch with the rank-and-file” who work for him, including those within the patrol division and the corrections officers who run the jail.

“The people who work here in the jail and on the road, they deserve better from the sheriff. They deserve better leadership,” Edes said.

With no Republican on the ballot, the primary will likely be the sole contest to decide whether Joyce will win a second term or Edes will take his seat. An independent candidate could file to run by June 2, but neither Joyce nor Edes has heard any rumors that another candidate has considered stepping forward.

The two candidates spoke in back-to-back interviews last week at the department’s Portland headquarters, where bumper stickers on vehicles in the parking lot show the stark divide in support for the two candidates.

Joyce spoke first in his administrative office, dressed in uniform brown, badge on his chest and plaques on the walls marking his achievements.

Edes spoke afterward, wearing a shirt and tie and seated on a bench outside the jail, where groups of employees came out, some in uniform and some in civilian clothes, to shake his hand. A couple stepped behind a pillar, casting glances over their shoulder, before wishing him well in the upcoming primary.

Members of the union unit that represents deputies, sergeants and lieutenants within the patrol division of the sheriff’s office has already voted to endorse Edes. “The men and women of the sheriff’s law enforcement service look to candidate Mike Edes to offer the responsible leadership that is required in a progressive law enforcement agency. We further are confident in Mike’s ability to offer us a team-based approach that best serves the citizens while creating a cohesive work environment throughout the rank structure,” Dave Hall, who heads the unit within the Teamsters Local 340, said in a written statement announcing the endorsement on May 7.

The union that represents the jail corrections officers, a much larger segment of employees within the department, has not yet taken an endorsement vote but expects to before the primary.

There are about 50 employees in the patrol division compared with nearly 200 within the jail.

Dennis Welch, president of Local 110 of the National Correctional Employees Union, which represents corrections officers, said Monday that he planned to post a notice of a vote before the end of the day.

“I’ll let the membership decide what to do,” Welch said.

Welch said he did not know whether the membership would choose to endorse Joyce or Edes or to endorse no one.

“If they decide to stay neutral, then that’s what we’ll do,” he said.

Joyce, 51, of Standish, said that in the 3½ years he has been in office, he has taken significant steps forward. The jail has been reaccredited, he has begun making overdue technological improvements in the jail and he is about halfway through a difficult process of seeing the patrol division of the sheriff’s office accredited for the first time. He said he would use another four-year term to finish that work and begin new steps.

“I’ve got great employees. I’ve got a great organization that works really hard on a daily basis,” Joyce said. “I’m ready for the next four years and the challenges ahead.”

He said Edes lacks the leadership experience to be sheriff, and that as a sergeant, Edes had “at best” supervised 10 people.

“You’re dealing with 250 employees. You’re dealing with a $20 million budget,” Joyce said. “It took me awhile to get in the position I’m in. I didn’t just jump from sergeant to sheriff.”

Joyce said some of the employees he supervises may be unhappy with the way he publicly announces mistakes made within the department.

Twice during his time in office, for example, he said that security breaches within the maximum security unit allowed inmates to get out of their cells and into other inmates’ cells for sex.

Both times, Joyce called a news conference to announce the breaches and point out the failures of staff members, though he did not name the employees involved in the breaches.

“I’m very transparent. If there are any mistakes, I go to the media and report them,” he said. “We need to stand up and say, ‘This is the mistake and this is what we are going to do to fix it.’ ”

Joyce, who is married and has stepchildren and two grandchildren, said he believes that after 28 years with the department, he is still only “in the middle of my career.”

“It’s a really great job. I’ve told people I won the lottery. I don’t need to win the money lottery. I’ve won the job lottery,” he said.

Edes, 55, of Cumberland, retired from the Maine State Police in January after 28 years. Before that he served for seven years on the Cumberland and Scarborough police forces. He said he loved the job every day and wants to continue working in law enforcement.

“I know most of the people in here on a first-name and friend basis,” Edes said, referring to the sheriff’s department employees. “I’ve met with dozens and dozens of them.”

Edes said that Joyce has mischaracterized his leadership experience by overlooking the role he played during 16 years as president of the Maine State Troopers Association and serving as chairman of the National Troopers Coalition, representing 45,000 troopers from unions in 49 states.

As president of the Maine State Troopers Association, Edes was responsible for representing 300 troopers, dealing with hundreds of disciplinary concerns and internal affairs issues.

Edes said he thinks Joyce has turned his back on the people he once worked with side by side before moving into leadership roles within the sheriff’s department.

The endorsement vote by the Teamsters Local 340 shows that, he said.

“I felt honored and blessed to receive their vote of confidence,” Edes said. “I’m very humbled that this kind of outpouring of support has been like this.”

Edes said that under Joyce, morale within the department has plummeted.

“These people are beleaguered. They don’t feel valued. They come in here and they feel it’s just a job when it should be a career,” he said.

Edes, who is married and has two children, was elected to the Cumberland Town Council in 2013 and plans to continue serving in that position if elected sheriff.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

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Twitter: @scottddolan