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Montana applicant offered sheriff job in Dunn County

MANNING -- After interviewing two candidates, the Dunn County Commission has opted to offer the county's open sheriff position to Texas native Clayton Coker.

Coker, who has been the acting executive officer of Montana Public Safety Officers Standards & Training since August 2012, and Stark County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Gary Kuhn, a Dunn County resident, were chosen from a pool of nine candidates to be interviewed by the county commissioners at their Wednesday meeting at the Dunn County Courthouse in Manning.

Denise Giffin, with Dunn County Human Resources Department, said both candidates were well-qualified to take over as Dunn County sheriff.

Coker has experience training police forces in Afghanistan and began his law enforcement career in 1987, after serving in the Marine Corp.

"My wife is what brought me to Montana," Coker said. "Her hometown is Libby (Mont.) and that's where we settled for the last 15 years or so, but I have more family in North Dakota at the moment than I do in Montana. I have two sons working over here right now and three nephews, a niece, a brother-in-law and his wife, so the family draw is kind of over here. I've been keeping my eye out and saw this opening and applied."

Coker said most of his career has been in administration.

"I believe most of my law enforcement career has been running the agency, and I took it upon myself when I was tasked with that to send myself to every training I could find for administration, policy writing," he said.

While ratings for both candidates were equal, one of the draws to Coker was his experience.

"We need someone who can give us direction and (Coker) has strong administration and budget skills," said Commissioner Donna Scott.

In his interview, Coker said if he was chosen as sheriff, he would want to speak with stakeholders about their thoughts on what needs fixed with the county's law enforcement.

"I would look at what's going on at the moment and what has or hasn't worked in the past," he said. "From the commissioners, from the state's attorney's office, from all of the stakeholders, even in the department, I'd find out what is working, what needs fixed and what the concerns are. I would identify the problems and work to fix those."

Dunn County State's Attorney Ross Sundeen, who was part of the selection committee, said he felt Coker would help draw potential out of the officers in the department.

Former Sheriff Don Rockvoy, who resigned in March to take a position working in the oil field, came to Dunn County as a sheriff's deputy in April 2009 and was appointed to sheriff in July 2009.

He was formally elected to serve a four-year term in 2010.

Coker was chosen by the commissioners by way of a secret ballot, with a vote of 3-1. Commissioner Bob Kleeman was not present for the vote.

Coker had not accepted the job as of press time. His salary, if appointed, will be determined at a later date.