At the edge of retirement, county Jail Administrator Quinn looks back

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Lt. Edward Quinn

COUNTY — Counting the weeks – six – to his retirement, Jail Administrator Lt. Edward Quinn, 59, of Otisfield, refuses to talk about his early life (simply saying it was tough), instead recalling 1980 saying, “that’s when life began.”

“When I was fortunate enough to work for Sheriff Alton Howe, that’s when life began.”

He was 23.

“My good friend Willie Buffington was taking courses through the sheriff’s office in the reserve officer program and his wife was trained as a matron for female inmates,” Quinn recalls.

“Willie had to do a shift at the jail because they were shorthanded and he asked if I wanted to come along. I did and loved it.”

He worked part time at the jail starting in 1980 and in March 1981, went on full time.

Quinn says had he not gone to work for the jail, his next area of interest was in long-haul trucking.

“Boy am I glad I didn’t do that and be away from family!”

He went through the Criminal Justice Academy Corrections Officer training and has maintained his certification annually.

He has also worked for Oxford County ever since and he has loved every second of it.

When he started at the jail, it was a “full-service” jail meaning inmates were incarcerated in-county for the length of their sentences.

At the time, Quinn says he worked under Capt. Ernie Martin who was the jail administrator.

“In the early ’80s, they started having shift sergeants and I got promoted to sergeant,” he recalls.

Then, when Martin retired in 2010, Quinn was appointed as jail administrator.

But is wasn’t necessarily a straight road from part time to administrator. He says he did lots of thing in between. For example, he took the Criminal Justice Academy’s Reserve Officer training and did road patrol as a reserve deputy for the OCSO.

“I would ride with Jim Miclon (now Director of Communications) who was a deputy at the time,” he says.

“Back then, everyone was on call but there were special things the sheriff wanted reservists doing.”

Computers

And then there’s Spillman.

Spillman is the software technology that began as a records management system for jails and has since evolved into a complete interconnected computer-assisted dispatch system that communicates with fire, rescue, law enforcement and corrections.

“I brought Spillman here,” says Quinn, who notes the immediate obvious savings was in manpower and time as the new system kept track of the cash accounts for inmates housed there. “I saw the need and set it up for Oxford County.”

He says he then expanded Spillman to include the patrol division and incident reports and then, between 1989 and 1992 it expanded to include dispatch.

“It is expanding and updating ever since.”

This landed him most of the computer/IT work for the OCSO (both the jail and dispatch are part of the OCSO).

“I was the computer IT guy from 1990 to 2010,” he says.

When Sheriff Wayne Gallant was elected sheriff in 2010, he turned an old garage into an office for Quinn, says Gallant.

Quinn was also the training officer for the corrections officers at the jail.

“I decided the jail was where I wanted to be,” says Quinn, “and have only focused on the jail ever since.”

Quinn has worked for three sheriffs, he says – Howe, Lloyd “Skip” Herrick, and Gallant.

Regrets

“I have regrets.”

Quinn shakes his head, “I have regrets that I couldn’t do more.”

He’s referring to his ability to turn the jail back into a full-service jail. Currently Oxford County contracts with out of county jails to house any inmate for more than 72 hours.

“In 2009 the then-Board of Corrections turned this place into a 72-hour jail … it shouldn’t have been done that way. Each county should have been allowed to run their jails as they saw fit.

“[Back then] the Board of Corrections was overseer of jails … then it [Board of Corrections] went away and never completed its task. The state gave the counties back their jails but no money to operate them … we are stuck with the [old] tax cap of 3 percent a year and there’s always a shortfall. The tax cap is the amount of tax income that can be spent on the corrections department.

“They tried to make it work but it failed and we haven’t been able to fix it since.”

Quinn says the jail should go back and would have gone back to full service but for the cost to do so – $800,000 to $900,000. Ironically, he says, that’s about the same amount it costs the county taxpayer to board out the inmates.

The advantage of housing inmates in-county, explains Quinn, is the ability it gives the jail staff and county to work with inmates and help them earn their way out of jail and develop skills to keep themselves out.

“We would still have to board some inmates out,” he notes, “because of the increase in population [and the number of inmates the jail can house].”

As a full-service jail back in the ’80s, Quinn says it used to house 40 to 45 inmates.

“Today we have 43 and that’s low,” he says looking up the number on his computer. The majority of these inmates are being housed at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset. The average daily in-house population is between 10 and 12, he says.

“I wish we had better rulings from the Legislature. I wish the county had money to run the jail the way it should be. I know it’s not my fault but I take it personally … I know it’s [the problem] much bigger than me but I wish I had been able to change that.”

Local first

Quinn is passionate about local government be it county or town and has worked hard to get what’s needed for the county to run its jail as “it should be run.”

“This county and the sheriff have worked extensively to get that [the low tax cap] changed and to find funding [for full-service jail].

“I’ve been involved in county government for 37 years,” he says proudly, “and in this county every resident has always had a voice … the [county] board governs and fixes things in a local manner.”

Can’t wait

“I love my job and I love my county but I am looking forward to this [retirement].

“I have had retirement at the age of 60 in my head for a long time … I chose my timeline four or five years ago. I have three grandkids I want to stick around for, projects to do, places to go and people to see.”

Quinn admits his health hasn’t been as great as he would like and because his grandchildren are “the apples of his eye” he wants to make sure he has lots of time to spend with them.

He also plans to do a lot of fishing.

For the few few months of retirement his plan is to “sit down and relax for a while.”

Then, he says, he plans to travel around the state visiting old friends.

“I have a lot of carpentry projects around my place I want to do.”

He and his wife, Sharie, have one daughter, Shonna, and son-in-law, Justin. “I couldn’t ask for a nicer son-in-law.”

They have three grandchildren – Kayley, 12, Kyle, 6, and Kaleb, 3.

Well respected

Quinn has earned his retirement. As jail administrator his job is a 24/7/365 job. There is no second in command. Shift sergeants run each shift but if a question or problem arises, they call Quinn.

Jail Operations Officer Dana Dillingham speaks highly of Quinn.

“He was in the military as a young man and has been here 37 years … that’s kinda unheard of these days … people don’t stay [in jobs] anymore … it’s something to be proud of.”

Dillingham, 46, who has worked at the jail since 1999 and has applied for Quinn’s job, says Quinn has been a role model and mentor.

“He is very thorough with the budget and we are on as tight a budget as we can be. He is always willing to come in and help out. It might be answering the phone or covering the front office.

“He is always at the other end of the phone if we are in need of advice or something and usually he is here shortly after … he doesn’t micromanage, he is just always willing to pitch in.”

While Dillingham was uncomfortable speaking to any negatives, Quinn himself admits he has “quite the temper.”

His biggest beef, Quinn admits, is lazy people who will sit back and watch someone else struggle to do something or not grab a broom when the jail needs sweeping.

“I am very proud of the people who work here,” Quinn says, “and of this jail. Do you know … we always get 100 percent on standards compliance whenever we have an audit!”

Another corrections officer, Sgt. David McAlister, was Quinn’s partner back in the ’80s.

McAlister, who isn’t the talkative sort, chuckles while reflecting on his long history with Quinn.

“Back then it was just me and him and about 15 to 25 inmates.”

McAlister remembers they used to play pranks on each other.

“I remember one time he was coming back from cell check and I dropped a tin trash can behind him and almost gave him a heart attack … I never did that again!

“He has tried to help the jail and us keep our jobs but he hasn’t been able to do [what he wants to do]. He’s not afraid to tell you like it is … he’s an upfront guy.

“He will tell you if you’ve done something wrong – it’s his job, but he’s fair and it’s his job to look at things differently … some might not see it as fair … I wouldn’t want his job!”

The sheriff says Quinn is not only an employee but a friend.

“He was a lieutenant in corrections when I got elected,” says Gallant. “When Ernie Martin retired in 2010, I knew Ed was the best man for the job … he knew it inside and out so I promoted him to administrator.

“I will miss his friendship but also his institutional knowledge about this whole [county] complex.

“He is so dedicated, so invested in this facility, staff and trustee prisoners … he takes a lot of pride in this place. He briefs me every morning.”

Gallant says he tried unsuccessfully to get Quinn to stay “at least until I am done.”

“It’s not unusual to come here at 3 a.m. and see Ed’s vehicle here. If there’s a problem or he needed to speak with an employee, instead of making the employee wait past the end of their shift, Ed comes in early.

“He has also always represented us [county] well in Augusta. We have always gotten along well but he was really upset with me a few years back when I offered a corrections officer a patrol position … I have taken a few [corrections officers] over the years … .”

Gallant says he will decide who to appoint to replace Quinn. Quinn says he is not taking part in the selection process as he wants the candidates to stand on their own merit.

“My time spent in this career,” concludes Quinn, “and in the many directions it took has been the greatest adventure. I came in with that passion and leave with it into retirement.”

asheehan@sunmediagroup.net