HALLOWELL, ME – Col. Joe Fessenden, chief of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Bureau of Marine Patrol, will be stepping down from his top-command post on Jan. 9, making way for Maj. Jon Cornish, the bureau’s current deputy chief, to take over in a smooth transition that has been over a year-and-a-half in the making.
Fessenden says he knows “it’s time” to retire, and he is extremely proud of the way he and Cornish teamed up to ensure a seamless “succession” from one chief to the next.
But he also knows that Jan. 9 will be a bittersweet day. It’s hard for a man who has spent four decades on the force – almost his entire adult life – to simply let go.
While rising through the ranks from “coastal warden” to sergeant to lieutenant on up, Fessenden became more and more rooted in the fishing community itself. The relationships he forged with fishermen and their families became part of his daily being. Stepping out of this world and into what lies ahead will take a bit of getting used to, he admits.
“I like fishermen and I like being part of the community,” Fessenden said. “I’m going to miss that.”
To this day, Fessenden never ceases to marvel at how his life turned out.
“Here I was, a kid from Bangor, ME with no experience along the coast, and I was able to rise through the ranks and build a whole career here,” he said. “The fact that I was given the chance to do this job, I’ll always be grateful for that.”
Fessenden was young when he got his start. He graduated from Bangor High School in 1971 and knew even back then that he wanted to be a coastal warden. He went to the University of Maine at Bangor and graduated from its two-year law enforcement program.
But at age 20, he was still too young to apply for a warden position. So, biding time, Fessenden took on a job with the Maine Department of Agriculture, where he spent eight months or so as an egg inspector.
He was assigned to “Quality Egg” – the early operation of the eventual DeCoster egg-producing giant headed by the notorious Jack DeCoster, who earned a reputation as a flagrant violator of health and safety regulations involving both his chickens and his employees.
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