DUBLIN — Police Chief James Letourneau is trading in his badge at the end of the year to become operations manager of a Montana dude ranch.
Letourneau grew up in Rindge, but his mother was originally from Dublin.
He joined the Dublin Police Department as a 21-year-old in 1989.
“It was exciting and it was fresh and I went after it, never looking back,” Letourneau said. “It wasn’t something I was actually looking for, but the qualifications fit me.”
After 25 years with the department, including the past 16 years as chief, Letourneau says he has been looking toward retirement from police work for a few years, but was not sure what he would do next.
The Letourneaus — wife Becky and children Zachary and Sarah — had long gone West for family vacations, skiing in Colorado, visiting Utah, Wyoming and Yellowstone Park.
With Zachary graduating from ConVal High School in Peterborough next spring, Jim and Becky asked the children where they would like to go this summer.
“One last big family vacation before life changes, college starts and everyone gets busy,” Letourneau said.
The teenagers decided on a dude ranch.
After some research Letourneau found Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch in McLeod, Montana.
Letourneau said he was drawn to it because it was small and personable as well as rustic.
“It’s rustic and clean, but it certainly gives you that western feel,” Letourneau said. “Everything about it was just great. They have a way of giving you an experience and making you feel at home.”
It’s the kind of dude ranch that hosts a small group of guests and the staff eats meals with the guests, so the Letourneaus got to know the owners Ron Jarrett and his wife, Phyllis, and Bryant Blewett and his wife, Ellen Marshall, at meals times.
He also enjoyed the wilderness activities including trout fishing in the Bolder River that runs through the ranch. After the vacation the owners reached out to Letourneau with a job offer, so he returned in September to review the different departments he would oversee. He then accepted the job as operations manager and plans to begin at the start of the New Year.
“It’s time for a change and I’m excited about that personally,” Letourneau said.
He plans to split his time between Dublin and the ranch and will hire staff, oversee 10 employees, take reservations and mingle with guests among numerous other duties.
“It will keep me around people, which is what I love,” Letourneau said. “It’s just an amazing place. ... I’m delighted I’m able to work there.”
While his new job will be fun and exciting, he said, it will be far from retirement.
“I’m not riding off into any sunset,” Letourneau said laughing.
Charlie Champagne chairman of the Dublin Board of Selectmen, said Letourneau will be “sorely missed,” but his departure is not unexpected.
“He’s been talking about trading in his badge for quite some time,” Champagne said. “He’s going to be very difficult to replace.”
Not only was he great at police work, but he has been so involved in the town and community, Champagne said.
The Select Board is in the process forming a Police Chief Selection Committee and will also rely on Letourneau for assistance in the hiring of his successor.
Letourneau has also agreed to stay on part time if the town hasn’t hired a new chief before the end of the year, Champagne said.
Though it is time for a change, it won’t be easy leaving town employment, Letourneau said. “It’s one of those communities with close knit people who are concerned about their employees. … It’s a great community. It’s afforded me a lot of opportunities personally and professionally. It will be hard to leave the town employees and the police department as well.”