GEORGIA — As Route 7 passes through St. Albans and leads into the Town of Georgia, its roadsides are lined with the campaign signs of two Franklin County police officers: Republican Thomas Oliver and Democrat Roger Langevin, candidates for Franklin County Sheriff.
Both officers have since taken that route into Georgia to make their case to voters. Oliver attended this last Monday during the selectboard’s regular meeting, and Langevin beat his Republican counterpart to a selectboard campaign stop two weeks prior.
Both considered the crimes seen locally characteristic of small towns, like traffic violations, and both noted the omnipresent opiate crisis, though Oliver’s and Langevin’s focuses drifted apart from there.
Langevin, the St. Albans Police Department (SAPD)’s school resource officer, attended a stuffed June 11 selectboard meeting as a last-minute edition to the agenda, sandwiched between a longwinded talk with the town’s fire department – covered previously in the Messenger – and a legislative update from the town’s representative, Carl Rosenquist, R-Georgia.
The former state trooper introduced himself as a retired detective sergeant and intelligence officer with the state, explaining that he was now the SAPD’s resource officer attached to St. Albans’s schools.
“I’m looking to make the sheriff’s department more effective,” Langevin said in his introduction. “You guys have a lot of the same issues a lot of towns have: You have a lot of speeding cars, you have ATV issues and you have drug issues.”
The drug issue became a centerpiece in Langevin’s introduction to the board. He cited reports highlighting how deep the opiate crisis had impacted Vermont, with references to Vermont-bound dealers caught in Massachusetts and displaced Franklin County dealers arrested in Hyde Park.
“Drugs are everywhere here,” Langevin said, a list of statistics in hand. “Last week there were 19 overdoses in Vermont, and there were five deaths.”
“Just last week?” selectboard chair Matt Crawford interrupted, spurring a nod from the Franklin County Sheriff candidate.
Langevin’s answer to the problem was the targeted, information-based police work currently conducted in St. Albans, where SAPD’s Street Crimes Unit has actively targeted local dealers and effectively pressed some of the trade out of St. Albans.
“If it’s a case of them being here in Georgia… I’d want to know that information and I’d want to work on those individuals – a lot like what [the Street Crimes Unit] does for St. Albans PD,” Langevin said. “I’d like to bring that to all the towns in Franklin County, because what’s going to happen with St. Albans doing it… is you’re going to displace those dealers and they’re going to come out to these outside areas.”
Crawford shifted the conversation toward speeding in Georgia.
“We’ve had discussions here in the past about not wanting Georgia to be a speed trap, but where would your red line be on that?” Crawford asked before adding, “Unlike some towns, we don’t need to make money off of [tickets].”
“I never advocate for making a profit off of tickets,” Langevin answered. “A seasoned police officer knows when to sink their teeth in.”
“I know you have town contracts. I see a lot of value in those and I want to make sure you get the most out of that.”
Langevin stayed on the sidelines for the rest of the selectboard’s meeting, an uncharacteristically long meeting by Georgia standards that continued for well over an hour after the sheriff’s candidate and the selectboard finished their conversation.
This past Monday night’s meeting of the Georgia selectboard was a decidedly quieter affair, clocking in at less than an hour. Like Langevin, Oliver was a last-minute addition to the agenda, slotted behind a selectboard meeting with the Georgia Conservation Commission to be covered in the Messenger at a later date.
Oliver introduced himself as the Deputy Chief of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, tracing his law enforcement experience back to 1990 and highlighting a background that saw Oliver in roles as diverse as patrolling and prisoner expedition to training assistance.
“Your situation in Georgia is that it’s a professional community,” Oliver said. “There’s a lot of traffic issues – I’m sure there’s speeding in the camp areas along Georgia Shore.”
“Obviously the opiate issue is everywhere, it just seems to hide really well,” Oliver continued. “As far as reported crimes, it’s pretty quiet.”
Oliver also mentioned the sheriff’s office’s work with the federal government, explaining that there’s cooperation between the two “on a day-to-day basis” that’s paid off in the form of equipment and federal forfeiture money.
“We’ve been pretty proactive in a lot of things,” the deputy chief told the selectboard. “We’ve been very involved in the federal government as far as assisting each other.”
Town administrator Mike McCarthy, himself a former chief in the Swanton Police Department, then raised the questions of staffing and transition, as Oliver’s election would mean new leadership and the expiration of deputy contracts.
Oliver answered that he was hoping to build some kind of a vocational program within the schools that could point interested students toward a career within law enforcement, as, according to both Oliver and McCarthy, there’s a noticeable lack of recruits needed to staff law enforcement agencies statewide.
“I would like to see enough growth to eventually provide more and more coverage, but being a county sheriff’s office and contractually in each town, that’s pretty difficult,” Oliver said.
“Do you foresee any problems in maintaining the contracts and staffing?” McCarthy asked. “How would you make that adjustment to make it be seamless?”
“Currently, right now, we could do the transition where we’re at,” Oliver answered.
“You believe if you were elected, all of your staff would carry over?” McCarthy followed.
With that exchange, the selectboard conceded that it didn’t really have any further questions for the sheriff’s candidate and thanked Oliver for attending. Following that conversation Oliver left and the selectboard continued with a regular meeting.
Langevin and Oliver are running to replace Franklin County Sheriff Robert Norris, who announced earlier this year that, after 20 years as the county’s sheriff, he would not be seeking reelection.
This article was originally published in the paper on June 27, 2018 and was uploaded to accompany the Messenger‘s election guide.