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Only Steps Forward: Officer Bud Caouette leaves a legacy of commitment to our community

By Jonathan P. LaBonte

Mayor of Auburn

Lengthy City Council budget meetings and debates about taxes being too high. Fiery rhetoric about whether or not two cities should merge. The non-stop noise that comes from 24-hour news cycles and social media.
Each of these reasons and many more can take the blame for not stopping to celebrate some of the blessings in this community, specifically some of the people who are living in a way to leave a lasting impact.
As I sat in Kirk Hall on the campus of Central Maine Community College on Saturday, I witnessed the telling of stories and the raw emotion that came from a community impacted by such a person: the late Officer Bud Caouette.

For the last year, the spread of #TeamBud was no less than viral. From his family to his brothers and sisters in the Auburn Police Department, his fellow motorcycle enthusiasts and Lewiston-Auburn businesses and non-profits, they all rallied in support of Bud, not only financially, but also emotionally and spiritually. While I did not know Bud like so many of those in his support system, I left Saturday with a much better understanding and a deep appreciation for what an example he left.
As cute as the #TeamBud logo was, developed by our in-house PR rockstar Liz Allen, I can now imagine Officer Caouette as the “cheeseburger man.” Police Chief Phil Crowell recounted how it was Bud’s leadership that brought the Auburn PD together for an annual summer outing, where he would tend the grill and become affectionately known to the Chief’s kids as the cheeseburger man. Perhaps it’s a mix of the McDonald’s characters, the Hamburglar and Mayor McCheese?
Or Deputy Police Chief Jason Moen recalling for those at the memorial service how Officer Caouette was a not a fan of the traffic-enforcement job and would prefer to, instead of providing tickets, report back “Caouette counseling administered.” There was no one there to recount having been delivered one of those sessions on a traffic stop, but maybe some of you reading this can relate.
I also learned that dark T-shirts can cause allergic reactions that can only be avoided by wearing white T-shirts. And if needed, you can get a doctor to write a note to your police chief to get you out of the regular wardrobe requirements. Who would have thought?
The stories of Office Caouette stretch well beyond his 22 years serving with honor in the Auburn Police Department. He was husband, a father, a grandfather, a softball coach, a small business owner and a man for whom a work ethic and commitment to providing for his family was evident in the stories recounted.
I have been proud to watch a clear demonstration of the definition of community, brought forth by Bud’s courageous battle. The honor and respect given to him in his passing at his memorial service, and even the procession that followed, was truly moving to those who found themselves, as observers, on the streets of Auburn and Lewiston on Saturday afternoon. I am grateful that Governor LePage granted our request to lower the State of Maine flag on Saturday in Bud’s honor.
One phrase that struck me Saturday, as it was repeated multiple times by those speaking of their love of Officer Caouette and their experiences with him, was how the true loss was for all those who would never have the chance to get to know Bud.
If I might be so bold, I would offer a slight correction to that statement. As evidenced by those sharing his impact, it is clear that many more people will come to know Bud’s legacy through the lives of his family, friends and brothers and sister of the Auburn PD.

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