BANGOR — The head of the Maine Marine Patrol will retire in January after 40 years with the department.

Col. Joe Fessenden, 61, joined the department in 1975 and will have spent 20 years as its leader when he retires.

The Bangor native says he became interested in working for the marine patrol in the early 1970s, when he met fisheries wardens while working as a delivery man. In May 1975, after a battery of tests, he was hired as a coastal warden.

Fessenden says he considers marine patrol work a critical role that is needed now more than ever.

Gov. Paul LePage has thanked him for his commitment to Maine’s commercial fishing and seafood industries.

Marine Patrol Major Jon Cornish will replace Fessenden as chief. He is a 30-year veteran.