Portland police chief says he's ready for City Hall

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PORTLAND — Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Monday it won’t be easy to move over to City Hall as an assistant city manager, but the opportunity could not be passed up.

“What kind of opened my mind to the possibilities was working with (City Manager Jon Jennings), how he operates and where his priorities are,” Sauschuck said. “He wants to move the city forward and takes care of his employees.”

Sauschuck will continue as police chief until July 20, then join Jennings and Assistant City Manager Mona Bector in City Hall on Aug. 6.

Bector was hired in May, shortly after city councilors approved the two new assistant city manager positions in the fiscal year 2019 budget. The posts essentially replace and expand on duties performed by Deputy City Manager Anita LaChance, who is retiring this month.

Sauschuck, who will make $140,000 annually, was the interim city manager before Jennings was hired in July 2015. He replaced Sheila Hill-Christian, who also served in an interim role after the September 2014 resignation of former City Manager Mark Rees.

That appointment “opened my eyes to the rest of the city and how it operates,” Sauschuck said.

But at the time, the experience did not whet his appetite for a change.

“I had a lot of unfinished business (in the Police Department) and that was my primary focus,” he said.

Assistant Police Chief Vern Malloch will become interim chief of police, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said in a July 5 press release. Malloch also served in the role while Sauschuck was acting city manager in 2015.

Sauschuck has been with the Police Department since 1997. In 2012, after serving as acting chief following the departure of James Craig, he was named to the post in a permanent capacity.

Sauschuck served in the U.S. Marines before joining the Police Department, where he has also served on the crisis intervention team, the weapons of mass destruction team, and as a field training officer.

“I’ll miss the men and women of the Police Department, first and foremost,” Sauschuck said. “I think of them as a family … the sworn personnel and civilian team members, I am proud of each and every one of them.”

In the July 5 press release, Jennings said the city “has been extremely fortunate to have had Mike Sauschuck serving our community for more than 20 years, including the last six as chief of police, and I’m delighted to have him onboard in this new leadership role.”

When envisioning the return to two assistant city managers, which had been the norm until about a decade ago, Jennings said he wanted them to help direct city departments, while also playing a more direct role in lobbying in Augusta on behalf of the city.

Sauschuck said he was not sure what duties he may be immediately assigned.

“Jon says let’s push the pause button, look at where skill sets are, then things will move forward,” he said.

Sauschuck said he is confident the organization, communication and leadership he brought to the Police Department can be applied to wider city government.

“I’m really excited to work with other city departments at a different level,” he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck will become the city’s second assistant city manager on Aug. 6. His final day at the Police Department is July 20.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.