Lewis & Clark County’s six newly elected county officials were sworn in for their next terms Thursday morning at a ceremony in Helena.
The officials took the oath of office from Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath. All six are incumbents elected to another term in November:
- Andy Hunthausen, county commissioner
- Leo Dutton, county sheriff
- Leo Gallagher, county attorney and public administrator
- Paulette DeHart, county treasurer, clerk and recorder
- Katrina Chaney, county superintendent of schools
- Mike Swingley, justice of the peace
The one major change will be for Dutton. He will also take on the duties of county coroner, after the county commission voted last year to consolidate the two offices. He said he’s confident the agencies are ready for the merger, and that he’s honored to have the opportunity to continue serving the people of the county.
“When we come out and talk to the people who we represent, it’s extremely important that they understand they’re our bosses,” he said. “They expect us to deliver professionalism, to be loyal to them, to be loyal to a Constitution that we swore to uphold. That’s the important part.”
This wasn’t McGrath’s first experience with a county swearing-in ceremony. He served as Lewis and Clark County Attorney from 1983 to 2001, when he became Montana’s attorney general. Gallagher was appointed as his successor.
“I thought, on a personal note, that I’d probably be the longest-serving county attorney for Lewis and Clark County,” McGrath said. “Well, after today, that goes away, and I think that’s a great thing.”
“This is probably my last go-round,” said Gallagher. “I am very appreciative of Mike McGrath’s doing it, because Mike McGrath was the guy I followed.”
Hunthausen said all of these officials have worked together well over the past few years, and he looks forward to continuing that work over the next few.
“It’s really important that these elected officials not always agree, but that we work together well, that we try to perform the duties of government and the services of government the best that we can, as a team,” he said. “It’s hard sometimes, but we’ve done it better than most, I believe. I’m just really proud of the team that we have.”
The officials’ new terms will formally begin on Jan. 1. That is also when the sheriff and coroner’s offices will be officially combined.
- Reported by Jonathon Ambarian