Ed Dexter, left, recently named Assistant Fire Chief at Biddeford Fire Department, pauses for a photo with Chief Scott Gagne on a recent day. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — Ed Dexter started his new job as assistant chief at Biddeford Fire Department on Thursday, July 8, but he is no stranger to the city, or to the area.

Dexter, 50, who recently retired after 26 years with Portland Fire Department, was a reserve officer with Biddeford Police Department for 12 years, working in that capacity as his PFD schedule allowed. Before he went to the Portland fire service, he worked six years at Saco Fire Department.

In Biddeford, he is the second in command after Chief Scott Gagne, and was chosen for the post from an initial field of 33 applicants from Maine and across the country. He is replacing Assistant Chief Paul LaBrecque, who is retiring. He will also be working with Deputy Chief Kevin Duross.

“I’m getting to work with individuals I respect and have known for a long time, and it makes the job so much more inviting,” he said.

As assistant chief, he will be in charge of emergency medical operations and training.

“It’s a new challenge,” said Dexter. “Professionally, I always try to challenge myself and make myself a little better each day.”

To say Biddeford Fire Department is busy is an understatement. The department handles 5,300 calls a year; 78 percent for emergency medical services. An example of  the pace was apparent on Thursday, July 8, when there were seven EMS calls from 8 a.m. when the work shift began to 11 a.m., when Dexter talked with a reporter about his new job.

The department, which is budgeted for 44 career positions — which will increase to 48 in January — is down by nine employees at the moment.

As they look to attract additional personnel, Dexter said he will be making sure those on the job have what they need.

“They’ve stepped up to the plate, they’re busy,” he said.

He does not see any immediate changes, Dexter said, but perhaps will introduce some new ideas.

Dexter’s interest in new challenges goes back a long way. When he was a Saco firefighter, Dexter was the medic on a regional tactical team that also included Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach.

Later, while employed at Portland Fire Department, that earlier work on the tactical team led to an interest in learning more about law enforcement, so while on a leave of absence, attended the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, sponsored by Biddeford Police Department, and then went to work for the agency in a reserve capacity upon his graduation.

Dexter said he enjoyed his time at Biddeford Police Department and will miss working with the people there.

At his swearing-in ceremony at the Biddeford City Council meeting July 6, Mayor Alan Casavant spoke of what he saw when Dexter was carrying out his police duties one day.

Casavant said he observed Dexter’s interaction with a woman who was disoriented and in the midst of a mental health situation.

“I was struck by the kindness he demonstrated,” said Casavant. He said Dexter’s ability to calm the woman was significant.

“I think this is a really good step for our department,” said Gagne that evening, just before City Clerk Carmen Morris administered the Oath of Office to Dexter.

When he is not working, Dexter said he enjoys photography and riding his Harley-Davidson Street Glide. A Hollis resident, Dexter said his home there will soon go on the market, and he and his fiancée plan to build in the area.

He said he built trust in his 26 years with the Portland Fire Department and will build trust in Biddeford, too.

“I’m looking forward to this,” said Dexter of his new job. “I’ve been in the fire service since I was 18, and I still have a passion for the job.”

Comments are not available on this story.