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Shakeup in Ogunquit lifeguard leadership leads to lifeguards quitting

The captain of the Ogunquit Beach lifeguards says he was demoted after asking that his team be paid more. That has prompted more than 9 of those lifeguards to quit.
Credit: NCM

OGUNQUIT, Maine — J.P Argenti told NEWS CENTER Maine that he was demoted as lifeguard captain at Ogunquit Beach after he fought for higher pay for lifeguards, especially for the veterans.

"Once you get past age 21-22, it becomes very difficult to work at the beach. Whether you have a family, a spouse, just bills to pay," Argenti said.

The interim town manager gave Argenti's administrative responsibilities to fire chief Russell Osgood, which led to more than nine lifeguards quitting. Ethan Bedard is one of them.

"J.P has advocated for us very well for a very long time. If that's what we have to look forward to for being long-term town employees, that's the treatment that we're going to get, just kind of get brushed aside," said Ethan Bedard, former lifeguard assistant captain at Ogunquit Beach.

Chief Osgood said Argenti's demotion was to limit the number of people reporting to the town manager.

"The intention was never to have J.P walk off. It was to keep him in his role so that he could be at the beach providing those services and I would take on the administrative role," Osgood said.

Osgood said the number of lifeguards now stands at roughly 20. Argenti said there was already a lifeguard shortage before this and fears what could happen this summer.

"Especially when you're a younger guard, the biggest thing is being able to feel comfortable with those above you," Argenti said.

While Osgood and the new lifeguard lieutenant said they could use more lifeguards, they are confident that beachgoers will still be safe with the existing team.

"Having those guys walk off at the busiest time of the year certainly doesn't help our operation at all. I have all the confidence in the world with the lifeguards that are here," he said.

"It would be nice to have a little bit of a cushion, but I am not so much concerned, especially with the staff we have. We are fully staffed along the beach," Christian Saulnier, Lt., Ogunquit Ocean Rescue said.

The town manager's office said it had no comment.