2016-01-15 / Front Page

Great Person Award

Caped crusader is community gem
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Candice Simeoni, this year’s Great Person Award winner, as voted on by Post readers, poses in her office at the Kennebunk Police Department, from which she manages not only administrative functions and documentation for court cases, but a host of community outreach programs. Cited for her positive attitude and caring demeanor, Simeoni won out in this year’s balloting over 11 other local nominees. (Duke Harrington photo) Candice Simeoni, this year’s Great Person Award winner, as voted on by Post readers, poses in her office at the Kennebunk Police Department, from which she manages not only administrative functions and documentation for court cases, but a host of community outreach programs. Cited for her positive attitude and caring demeanor, Simeoni won out in this year’s balloting over 11 other local nominees. (Duke Harrington photo) Great Person 2015: Candice Simeoni: ‘The person everyone needs in their lives’

KENNEBUNK — Since The Post launched its annual Great Person contest, the winner, more times than not, has been an older member of the community, someone recognized by residents for a lifetime of giving. But this year’s winner proves you don’t have to be a senior citizen to be superlative when it comes to caring.

Candice Simeoni, 35, of Lyman, is the administrative supervisor at the Kennebunk Police Department, where she has parlayed a gift for gab – what she calls her “verbal judo” – into a host of community policing projects. She founded the department’s citizens policing academy, works as a self-defense instructor and logs Fridays as a child passenger safety seat technician. But she’s also chairman of the York County Elder Abuse Task Force, a leader in its Lifelong Wish program, and a baker for Icing Smiles, where she makes cakes for terminally ill children.


Candice Simeoni, this year’s Great Person Award winner, as voted on by Post readers, poses in her office at the Kennebunk Police Department with the super hero cape given to her by the first graduating class of the citizens police academy, which she helped create. (Duke Harrington photo) Candice Simeoni, this year’s Great Person Award winner, as voted on by Post readers, poses in her office at the Kennebunk Police Department with the super hero cape given to her by the first graduating class of the citizens police academy, which she helped create. (Duke Harrington photo) “I just try to do a little bit of everything,” she says. “Sometimes, I’m like, take a breath, Candice. But I have to always be busy, I have to always be doing something. That’s just my personality. That’s just how I am.”

A full-time patrolman for 10 years – in Kennebunkport for three years, then in Eliot for seven – Simeoni has worked for the past two years at Kennebunk PD, where she serves as court officer in addition to her work as administrative supervisor.

In that capacity, she processes paperwork needed to defend police cases in courts, from traffic infractions to felony arrests, but, in characteristic fashion, looks at her job as an opportunity to help, not punish.

“For me, it’s not about getting a conviction, it’s about trying to foster them not to do it again, or to guide them in a different way,” she says.

That may seem to some a different way of looking at dealing with the bad guys, but for most of her working career, Simeoni has been all about changing perceptions, whether working with kids in the Police Explorers program she founded in Eliot, or serving as chairman of the York County Elder Abuse Task Force.

In both Eliot and Kannebunk, Simeoni founded a citizens police academy, a 12-week course for residents designed to help them better understand what police go through on a daily basis.

The first graduating class in 2014 presented Simeoni with a glittering pink cape with her initial bedazzled on the back, a testament to her super smile, and force of positive energy.

“I always said that I wished I had a magic cape and a wand so I could make all the problems of the world disappear,” Simeoni said on Friday, explaining the garment that still hangs in her office. “But since I don’t, I do my best by doing the citizens police academy, and trying to build awareness.

“I always say the academy is the beginning of a relationship, not the end of a course,” she says.

Simeoni admits to having been something of a contradiction as a cop. She was the kind of female officer who refused special treatment, and balked whenever a male officer would try to hold a door open for her. But she also was the kind of officer who would stop to pick up a local’s trash cans, if they blew out to the road.

“I made a lot of relationships that way,” Simeoni says. “And that’s what’s so important for police officers, to build credibility. It the same with the police academy, except there I get 12 fresh faces at once and I have the opportunity to change their perceptions of what it is to be a police officer. That’s what motivates me.”

Originally, Simeoni wasn’t sure what motivated her, apart from a desire born of “being raised right,” she says, to help others. She flirted with careers in veterinary medicine and special education, and worked as a substitute teacher, and in the Sanford City Hall.

“I never really knew what I wanted to do,” she said.

But it was while searching for a greater purpose that Simeoni did a ride-along with Kennebunk PD Juvenile Officer Juliet Gilman. By the end of the ride, she’d found her calling, Simeoni says, with a beaming grin

“She was so awesome. She really opened the door for me, opened my eyes to what law enforcement really was,” she said. “I figured it [becoming a police officer] was a way for me to nab misconceptions, help people and do the right thing.

Simeoni went on to earn a degree in business administration and leadership from the University of Southern Maine, and to graduate from the police academy. And, once she had her son, Thomas, now, 3, and decided to leave her policing career behind in order to dedicate nights and weekends to her family – her husband is an officer with Kennebunkport PD – Simeoni says landing an administrative job in Kennebunk was like coming home, after her initial introduction to the force by Gilman.

“This police department is absolutely fabulous,” she says. “I love this place. I always say, I only wish I’d started my career here.”

But Simeoni doesn’t stop giving when she punches out at the end of the day, as her family readily attests,

“Candice is a kind, giving, loving person. She is the most giving person you could ever meet,” wrote Simeoni’s cousin, Pamela Breault of Biddeford, who nominated her for the Great Person Award. “Candice has been involved and active in the Elderly Task Force, and doing the Camp Postcard for the needy and troubled teens. From coat drives to warm the elderly in Maine, to playing Secret Santa by leaving gifts, using her own money, she never asks to get anything back, except the smiles on people’s faces.

“She is such a simple, outgoing kind of person that everyone needs in their lives,” Breault wrote. “If we didn’t have her in our lives, we wouldn’t be the same.”

There are a bunch of young people in York County who may feel the same way. In spite of all she’s done in Kennebunk and elsewhere, Simeoni says founding the Eliot Explorer program may be her proudest accomplishment to date, although nothing beats the smile of a sick child presented with a customized cake.

“We had some kids in the Explorer program who didn’t really believe in themselves, but I did and one of my proudest moments was seeing some of them graduate,” Simeoni said. “That kind of stuff really motivates me. It makes me smile. It’s not the stats – how many traffic stops I made, or how many arrests I made – it’s the relationships. It’s the footprints I leave that are so important to me.”

Meanwhile, Simeoni’s mother points to the work her daughter has done to make wishes come true, as part of her effort to make the elder task force about something more than abuse.

“For the past three years, she has helped elderly women, one who was 103, to meet President Bush, she help another woman find her family and another elderly lady fulfill her wish of riding in a hot air balloon.”

Another cousin, Dawn Hamilton, was even more effusive.

“There is always that one person in your life that you look up to, someone that blows you away with their strength, courage, knowledge, leadership and their forgiving heart,” she said. “No one could ever exceed Candice’s beauty, her caring heart, her never ending smile.”

For Simeoni, who loves talking about the police department and its community outreach programs, but mush less so herself, the praise, as well as the Great Person award, came as a bit of a shock.

“I was so surprised I was even nominated, and super-surprised to win,” Simeoni said. “I mean, there were some really great people in that group.

“All I can say is that I’ve only ever just wanted to help people. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s the absolute truth. It’s just something I always wanted to do. And, to do that, I guess I wear a lot of hats.”

And one of them, she says, remains her patrolman’s cap. Simeoni has maintained her police officer’s certification and, folded neatly under he desk, she keeps her uniform handy.

“I could go out at a moment’s notice to help anybody,” she says, with a laugh and a broad smile.

There were 11 others nominated for recognition in this year’s Great Person balloting:

 Kristina Birthisel, from the Kennebunk Free Library;

 Sally Bridges, lauded for “always giving, always dependable;”

 Jude and Joel Brownstein, advocates of River Tree Arts;

 Kennebunk Downtown Committee volunteer Ahmed Ciangiulli;

 Marissa Gagne, of Kennebunk Beach Realty;

 Donna Merrill-Walls, a tireless advocate in solving the Mary Tanner cold case;

 Melissa, a teller at Kennebunk Savings Bank;

 Father Tom Murphy, of St. Martha Church;

 Kennebunk Twirlers coach Susan Plass;

 Jack Reetz Jr., a longtime volunteer on municipal committees.

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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