Mark Waltz Contributed photo

BRUNSWICK — In 1997, when Mark Waltz was just a few weeks into his training to become a Brunswick police officer, then-Chief Jerry Hinton already believed the young officer had “what it takes” to make it far in his new career. 

Now, 22 years later, Waltz is preparing to say goodbye to the department, retiring after more than two decades of service, with nine of those years as commander. 

“It’s time to move along and let someone else do it,” he said Friday. 

Waltz was eligible for retirement in November, but decided to stay and apply to take the helm of the department after former Chief Richard Rizzo announced his plans to retire. Last month, former Cumberland County Sheriff’s Patrol Captain Scott Stewart was selected for the role, and Waltz decided to retire. 

“We try to hire motivated officers, so I don’t want to clog up the pipeline,” Waltz said. “It’s time to let some others have that chance for growth.” 

Waltz dreamed of being a cop for years before he joined the force. 

As a student at Bowdoin College he took a criminal law class and was hooked. Shortly after, he reached out to his hometown police department in Conway, New Hampshire, and joined as a reserve officer, where he worked part-time for five years. He was “bitten by the law enforcement bug,” he said. 

Waltz initially aimed for the FBI, but in order to be considered with his college major and lack of experience, he needed to go to law school. 

After he graduated, the FBI instituted a hiring freeze. 

Waltz moved on with his life and spent the next four years practicing law with Moncure and Barnicle in Brunswick, but couldn’t shake his old dream.

His eventual decision to join the force at 30 years old — a move he refers to as an early mid-life crisis — caused a stir within the police department and the community. 

The lead story in The Times Record on Dec. 16, 1997 bore the headline “Lawyer becomes Brunswick cop” and detailed Waltz’s career change. 

“When we first heard, way back when, the year he started, that we had a lawyer applying to the (department), we were all wondering why somebody who was practicing law would want to work with us,” said Lisbon police Chief Marc Hagan, who was formerly Brunswick commander and worked with Waltz for nearly 20 years. “It didn’t take long to realize that Mark just wanted to help people, like all of us and he won us all over pretty quick.”

Dave Watson, a Brunswick Town Councilor and former Brunswick Police Officer who worked with Waltz until 2001, agreed. 

“(He) has shown himself to be an excellent officer. He has served the town very well, especially in his commander role,” Watson said. “He’s a great guy, and he has proven himself time and time again to be an asset to the community. I’m sorry to see him go.” 

Hinton knew as much all the way back in the ’90s. 

Mark Waltz when he joined the Brunswick Police Department in 1997. His career change from lawyer to cop caused a stir. Times Record file photo

“He’s got what it takes,” he told The Times Record at the time. “He’s got a lot of compassion, he’s very smart, he has the education and, the biggest thing of all, he has the desire.” 

Police work has changed a lot since Waltz was sworn in as an officer, with technological advancements making some work easier and difficulties recruiting making it harder, and the field appears to be headed for more changes as he is leaving.

Public outrage and protests over recent accounts of police brutality and racism have erupted across the country, with supporters calling to defund and in some cases, dismantle police departments. 

The Brunswick Town Council recently authorized a statement that “Black lives matter to the town of Brunswick,” and officials hope to form a task force to look at local policing in the coming months. 

According to Waltz, the Brunswick Police Department is completing a diversity training with Toby Holton, one of the local protesters, within the next two weeks, partly to help officers know when they might be unintentionally making someone feel afraid, and partly to help residents, especially residents of color, feel safe when interacting with police. 

This, according to Waltz, is “the kind of productive dialogue that benefits everybody.”

The community needs to “use this crisis,” he said, because the future of policing “depends on our willingness and the willingness of people in our community to engage with us to help us move positively forward.”  

Waltz isn’t sure what comes next. 

He still practices law on the side and owns Casco Bay Title, but there are “a lot of things in life that interest me,” he said, including the possibility of more public service. 

He retires July 31.

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