PORTLAND — Assistant City Manager Michael Sauschuck is Gov.-elect Janet Mills’ choice to lead the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Sauschuck’s nomination was announced Friday by Mills, who also is nominating Maine State Prison Warden Randy Liberty to serve as Department of Corrections commissioner.
Sauschuck would replace departing Public Safety Commissioner John E. Morris.
“It will be my goal to lead a Department of Public Safety that not only protects the safety and welfare of the people of Maine, but that is also professional, accountable and transparent,” Sauschuck said in the news release from Mills.
Sauschuck, 48, has been assistant city manager since August, after being named police chief in 2012. He joined the Police Department in 1997.
In 2015, Sauschuck stepped aside briefly to serve as acting city manager before current City Manager Jon Jennings got the permanent job.
Jennings praised Mills’ choice.
“(Sauschuck) has a long history of service to our country and to the public and is one of those unique individuals who leads by example, has a commitment to excellence in all that he does, is intensely loyal, and has unmatched integrity,” Jennings said in a prepared statement.
A native of Madrid, in Oxford County, who served in the U.S. Marines from 1988-1993, Sauschuck was lauded by Mills for his experience and work ethic.
“Mike and Randy are leaders of the highest order who are well-positioned to fulfill that critical mission and who are well-respected across the board. I look forward to working with them in the years to come to ensure that we have a strong and successful Department of Public Safety and Department of Corrections,” she said.
Sauschuck led a Police Department of more than 22o employees, including 160 police officers, and was a proponent of community policing with outreach to the city’s minority population. He also sought to broaden the diversity of the department, while also dealing with an overall shortage of officers.
In his tenure, Sauschuck also sought to broaden the fight against opioid addiction into the public health realm. In 2016, the department named Oliver Bradeen as a liaison to work with people who had overdosed.
Sauschuck was also a focal point in the July 15, 2016, arrests of 17 people protesting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on Commercial Street. He was on the scene when arrests were made, and intended to take part in the Restorative Justice meetings designed to allow the parties to avoid further criminal prosecution.
Sauschuck was also chief when Sgt. Nicholas Goodman shot and killed Chance D. Baker outside a sandwich shop at Union Station Plaza on Feb. 18, 2017. Goodman was cleared by state and local investigations, which came as Jennings and Sauschuck were working on implementing the use of body cameras.
In the aftermath of the shooting, when Mayor Ethan Strimling called for faster implementation of the cameras, Sauschuck criticized Strimling for politicizing the shooting.
After shifting to City Hall as one of two new assistant city managers, Sauschuck became the leader of efforts to bring a new homeless service center with 220 beds to the grounds of the Barron Center, off Brighton Avenue.
The city has since decided against pursuing a shelter at the site, but is looking to move ahead with a 150-bed service center in the city.
Portland Assistant City Manager Michael Sauschuck will be nominated to lead the Maine Department of Public Safety.