PITTSFIELD — Harold “Pete” Bickmore was an off-duty special agent with the FBI the evening of May 10, 2007, as he drove on his way to get ice cream from Friendly’s. He came upon an accident on a busy four-lane highway in a suburb of Boston.

Bickmore, a native of southern Maine, identified himself to a small crowd that had gathered around the scene, where he saw a young woman lying still in the road. The 16-year-old girl had been walking when she was hit by a car and thrown to the pavement. She wasn’t breathing. Blood ran from her head and her mouth.

The FBI agent, fearing she might be dead, nevertheless sprang to action. The crowd of a dozen or so people around her were hysterical or in shock, and not attending to her.

“I was was thinking of my own daughters, my two daughters,” Bickmore recalled in an interview with the Morning Sentinel. “She was bleeding from out of (her) mouth; she was pretty much gone. And all I could think about was my own daughters, and I wanted to do everything to revive her.”

He called 911 and asked for a life-support trauma unit. He had a bystander get a towel from his car and then, while holding the towel on her head to stop the flow of blood and supporting her neck in case of a spinal injury, he administered CPR to the teenager. Bickmore did all this “in spite of the risk of possible infection from blood-borne pathogens,” according to an FBI recounting of the incident. “He rendered assistance in spite of the panic of those around him. Roughly one minute later, the young woman opened her eyes and began to breathe on her own.”

For his quick actions that saved the life of the 16-year-old girl, Bickmore was awarded that year the FBI’s Medal For Meritorious Achievement.

Harold “Pete” Bickmore

Fast-forward 12 years, and Bickmore, 61, is now chief of the Pittsfield Police Department, overseeing public safety in this Somerset County town of about 4,200 people. Bickmore took over as police chief 18 months ago, and local officials say the transition for the agency is going smoothly.

There is a new budget in place with a raise for Bickmore and restored funding for the department after an earlier vote by the Town Council to move $130,000 from the Police Department to a line item for roadwork at the highway department and an agreement for a shared administrative assistant.

For Bickmore, who retired in July 2013 after a 26-year career with the FBI serving as head of the bureau’s domestic terrorism unit, tracking neo-Nazis, anti-government militia and antifa groups, the transition is finally settling down, noted District 4 Town Councilor Heather J. Donahue, the town’s deputy mayor.

“I think when any business or municipal department goes through a change of leadership like the Police Department did, adjustments are going to be made and not everybody is going to agree with those adjustments,” Donahue said. “Pete has a different leadership style than (the late police Chief Steve Emery) did. Steve was there for a very long time and it takes people a little while to get used to how a new person is going to operate, and that’s something that we expected by hiring someone from out of the department, that there was going to be a period of time of adjustment for everyone.

Emery, 61, died unexpectedly in 2016 after suffering from a heart condition. He had been the town’s police chief since 1994 and had been planning to retire the following year.

“I think the chief is doing a great job,” Donahue said of Bickmore. “He’s really made a difference in town. He has become very active in the schools and with the businesses. I was on the committee that hired him, and I think we made the right choice.”

Bickmore said that enhancing community policing is among his priorities. That has included visits with senior citizens to talk with them about issues such as scams, going after drug traffickers and helping those who are addicted amid the opiate crisis, and helping children in schools. The department for the first time has a reserve officer working also as a school resource officer in Pittsfield schools, Bickmore noted.

“I want,” Bickmore said, “to make the department a little better for whoever takes it over after I leave.”

At the six-hour Jan. 2 meeting of the council when funding for the Police Department was discussed, there was also praise for Bickmore from a former councilor, Marie Manning, and resident Pete Vigue, chairman at Cianbro Corp., headquartered in Pittsfield.

“All the kids know ‘Chief Pete,'” Manning said, according to meeting minutes.

Contacted by phone this past week, Vigue, who attends Pittsfield council meetings, agreed, noting that Bickmore visits the local schools and restored the position of school resource officer.

“Pete Bickmore is an outstanding police chief, and is highly revered by the people in this community for what he’s brought to the community, his relationships with the community and his knowledge and experience; and for that, I’m extremely grateful,” Vigue said. “He is extraordinary.”

Vigue said Bickmore had held a meet-and-greet meeting in the Pittsfield community, which has shaped his relationship with the town’s residents.

“It was an open interaction, and at that meeting there were members of the sheriff’s department there. There were members of the state police there,” he said. “There was a very significant crowd of people there to allow him to interact and bring the people together. It was a wonderful experience for the town, and it’s never been done before. We’re very fortunate to have him.”

Denise Savage, the administrative assistant in Pittsfield for all department heads, including the Police Department, said there currently are six police officers in town, including the chief, Sgt. Tim Roussin and four patrol officers. There are seven reserve officers.

The Town Council approved the Police Department budget earlier this year at $603,257, which is an increase of $124,471, or 26 percent, over the 2018 budget. The 2018 police budget was $478,786.

Donahue said the council agreed to give Bickmore a pay raise to just under $70,000 a year. The funding issue had been contentious in budget meetings late last year, when one resident noted that her husband is a patrol officer in Bangor and makes more than the police chief in Pittsfield. The pay went from $59,342 to $69,342 with a council vote in January.

“The Police Chief handed out a survey of regional police chief’s salaries as well as deputies to include Augusta, Waterville, Skowhegan, etc. and started negotiations with the Town Council,” Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said in an email. “In the end, the Police Chief was approved for a raise to a $70,000 salary.”

Other items were cut, including the Pittsfield Community Theater operating budget, additional positions in the public works and police budgets, and cuts to the library, public works, recycling and the transfer station, Ruth said.

Bickmore started his law enforcement career as a reserve officer in Scarborough, patrolling Higgins Beach and Pine Point, the Portland Press Herald reported in 2013.

Harold “Pete” Bickmore enjoys a get-together with friends in 2013 at Pat’s Pizza in Yarmouth. From left are Mike Edes, Maine State Police; David Goodman, with the Tampa police in Florida; John Kyle, owner of Pat’s Pizza; Bickmore, then the new head of security for the Cleveland Browns; and Milt Calder, a Cumberland police lieutenant. Portland Press Herald file photo by Gordon Chibroski

He still looks back at that time as important formative years for his understanding of public safety and service. Even before that, at age 15, he had joined the Cumberland Fire Department.

“I think it all started when I worked for Scarborough as reserve in 1980 and went full time in ’81,” Bickmore said in an interview. “We did community policing back then. We didn’t have a big fancy name for it, but we did the same thing. … We were taught to be out there, in the community, working with other police departments. That has always stuck with me.”

“I think my training from the Cumberland Fire Department, being a cop in Scarborough, the FBI, just combined gave me the basic skills from a pretty young age.”

He retired in July 2013 from the FBI, where he helped investigate the Mafia in Providence, Rhode Island; the first World Trade Center bombing; major kidnapping and ransom cases; and the Boston Marathon bombings.

He later became head of security for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and served briefly as the police chief in Ellsworth, marking his return to police work, but this time in Maine.

Now in Pittsfield, his biggest priority is safety – that of the public and of his officers. “I believe in participatory management and I believe in working together,” Bickmore said. “My biggest thing is the health and safety of my officers, and the public. Protecting each other and working together with other police agencies is really important, and working with the community, civic organizations.”

That spirit of cooperation and teamwork is another thing that stuck with Bickmore in the aftermath of the 2007 accident involving the 16-year-old girl on the highway. After he revived the girl using CPR, authorities from police, fire and rescue departments and hospital staff all worked together and played roles in her assistance and recovery, Bickmore said.

Bickmore recalls that he visited the girl and her family afterward. It was rewarding to see her alive and healthy, he said, and they gave him a little something as a thank-you.

It was a gift certificate to Friendly’s ice cream.

Morning Sentinel Managing Editor Scott Monroe contributed to this report.