Generally speaking, Don Bolduc, now a Pittsfield police officer, has tested himself for years  

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc greets James Wesson at the Bell Brothers convenience store in downtown Pittsfield on Feb. 8. Wesson remembered that Bolduc recently passed on giving him a ticket when Wesson said he couldn’™t afford to pay the fine.

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc greets James Wesson at the Bell Brothers convenience store in downtown Pittsfield on Feb. 8. Wesson remembered that Bolduc recently passed on giving him a ticket when Wesson said he couldn’™t afford to pay the fine. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc greets James Wesson at the Bell Brothers convenience store in downtown on Thursday, February 8, 2024. Wesson remembered that Bolduc passed on giving him a ticket in the past when Wesson said he couldn’t afford to pay the fine.

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc greets James Wesson at the Bell Brothers convenience store in downtown on Thursday, February 8, 2024. Wesson remembered that Bolduc passed on giving him a ticket in the past when Wesson said he couldn’t afford to pay the fine. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc greets the customers at the Bell Brothers convenience store in downtown on Thursday, February 8, 2024.

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc greets the customers at the Bell Brothers convenience store in downtown on Thursday, February 8, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc at the the station before going on patrol. Bolduc, at 61, has started at the bottom of the ranks.

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc at the the station before going on patrol. Bolduc, at 61, has started at the bottom of the ranks.

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc leaves the station to go on Patrol on Thursday, February 8, 2024.

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc leaves the station to go on Patrol on Thursday, February 8, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc shows his vest at the the station before going on patrol on Thursday, February 8, 2024.

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc shows his vest at the the station before going on patrol on Thursday, February 8, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc waits in line at the Bell Brothers convenience store in downtown on Feb. 8.

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc waits in line at the Bell Brothers convenience store in downtown on Feb. 8. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc vest at the the station before going on patrol on Thursday, February 8, 2024.

Pittsfield police officer Don Bolduc vest at the the station before going on patrol on Thursday, February 8, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor columnist

Published: 02-17-2024 6:44 PM

He walked into the local convenience store loaded with the protective gear that he uses to defend himself and the residents of Pittsfield.

He wore a bulletproof vest and carried a taser, two magazine cartridges, a service pistol, pepper spray and a nightstick, all tucked away in a uniform with more zippers than a retail pants store.

But Don Bolduc, a retired general, brought more than that to the store. He brought his upbeat personality and gift of gab to his new role as a police officer in a small town.

“How you doing?” Bolduc said to anyone within earshot, extending his hand. “You doing OK?”

He’s 61, old for an officer who joined the 10-member force in 2022. He wanted to keep working after he retired from his medal-filled military career and his two losing runs for a U.S. Senate seat.

He had done some part-time police work in his hometown before joining the Army soon after graduating from Laconia High School.

“I’ve always been interested in law enforcement work,” Bolduc said. “I wanted to see if there’s a department out here in the state of New Hampshire that will hire me. And some said yes, some said no, and I landed here in Pittsfield.”

He was hired for a part-time position, and when a full-time job opened up offering just under $50,000 a year to start, he stepped forward.

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“The rest is history,” said Selectman Jim Adams.

“People in town like him. He’s just a regular guy,” Adams said. “We’re lucky to get him.”

Pittsfield Police Chief Joe Collins gave Bolduc the job. He didn’t care about Bolduc’s age. What he lacked in police experience, he more than made up for with his other life experiences, including reaching the rank of brigadier general.

Bolduc marked the other boxes on Collins’ checklist. He was willing to pay his dues all over again, despite his two Purple Hearts and 10 tours of duty in Afghanistan, training with fresh-faced high school graduates 45 years after Bolduc had finished at Laconia High. Age was not a factor.

“He was probably in better shape than anyone else here,” Collins noted.

Bolduc agreed to a three-year commitment, a requirement on the force. And while Collins said Bolduc’s war record was not a factor in the hiring process, it certainly could not be ignored, illustrating Bolduc’s leadership skills during the most stressful circumstances imaginable.

“He came in as a patrolman, the last man on the totem pole,” Collins said. “He said he would embrace that, and he has done so.”

Just last month, Bolduc was first on the scene of a shooting in a bank parking lot across the street from the Pittsfield Police Department.

He sees domestic abuse, drunk driving, burglaries, speeding, vandalism and so on. Bolduc knows that pulling a car over could turn deadly.

“You have the uncertainty of a traffic stop,” Bolduc said. “And there’s also a lot of uncertainty when you have a case of domestic violence. Very dangerous.”

Throughout his career, Bolduc has gravitated toward danger and public service.

He spent 36 years in the Army. He entered southern Afghanistan about six weeks after Sept. 11, one of about 300 soldiers who rode horseback – helicopters and land vehicles were too loud for a clandestine operation – to gather intelligence. He commanded a special operation force of 6,000 Navy Seals. He lost 72 men.

He suffered a traumatic brain injury when a 2,000-pound bomb – from friendly fire – exploded near him. He crashed in a helicopter. He suffered PTSD. He retired from the Army in 2017.

The bullets and bombs, metaphorically speaking, did not stop when Bolduc ran for U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2020 and 2022. He lost the 2020 primary to Corky Messner, who was defeated by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. In 2022, Bolduc became the Republican nominee to challenge Maggie Hassan.

Bolduc made national headlines by flip-flopping his position on former President Donald Trump’s assertion that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Joe Biden. Bolduc was accused by Trump loyalists as waffling for personal gain, a politician who makes decisions based on which way the wind was blowing.

Never one to mince words, Bolduc was straightforward, not defensive, when answering questions earlier this month about his change of heart on what happened during the presidential election.

The 2020 presidential election was fair, Bolduc said. At least fair enough.

“I do believe there was fraud,” Bolduc said. “That’s something that can’t be disputed, but at the end of the day, I played a political game, right? So then I decided no more political games. I’m going to say what I honestly believe, and that is the election wasn’t stolen.”

But it was too late. Bolduc had become a lightning rod for controversy.

He strengthened that notion when he called Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, a “Chinese communist sympathizer” while campaigning for the ’22 Senate seat.

At one point he called the governor a “pansy.”

“We both said things during the election cycle that are just part of the election cycle,” Bolduc said.

Bolduc and Sununu later joined forces in their support for Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. Bolduc remains politically active – just last week he traveled to South Carolina to defend the former U.N. ambassador against attacks from Trump, who mocked Haley’s husband for not being on the campaign trail with his wife. Haley’s husband, Michael, is currently deployed in Africa with the South Carolina Army National Guard. Trump’s comments were disgraceful and illustrate that he’s unfit to serve as commander-in-chief, Bolduc said.

On his day job, Bolduc walks his beat, goes to local schools to talk with children, looks for speeders zipping through town and walks into downtown convenience stores, his hand extended for hearty handshakes. Sometimes he sees people like James Wesson, a man with a bushy salt-and-pepper beard. He’d met Bolduc previously.

“I once saw the blue lights in my back window,” Wesson said. “I pulled over to talk to him to see what was the point. I needed an inspection sticker. I told him, ‘Don’t write me a ticket because I’m poor as hell,’ and he let me go. A good man.”

That’s all part of community policing, getting to know the 4,000 or so people of Pittsfield.

“I remembered him when I walked in,” Bolduc said. “It’s our opportunity to develop rapport with the citizens. People go through tough times and have to make decisions to put food on the table. Sometimes that inspection sticker takes a back seat.”

And sometimes, the nature of Bolduc’s job can change suddenly. A 911 call came later in the morning while Bolduc sat in his cruiser in the department parking lot.

“Possible suicidal subject,” the dispatcher said.

“Unfortunately, I have to head out, and I can’t take you with me,” Bolduc said. “I have to go.”

He sped from the parking lot and turned left onto Main Street, disappearing around a corner, his blue strobe lights flashing.