Gallatin County commissioners appointed undersheriff Dan Springer on Monday to serve as interim sheriff until commissioners can pick a permanent replacement.
Springer replaces former sheriff Brian Gootkin, who was tapped to lead the Montana Department of Corrections earlier this month by Gov. Greg Gianforte.
Springer spoke briefly at a commission meeting and said he was willing to accept the temporary position. He said the continuity of services and “everything we’re doing” is “appropriate” and “good” for sheriff’s office employees.
“I’m happy to take that on,” Springer said.
After the meeting, Springer told the Chronicle that he would throw his name in the running to be named sheriff permanently. He said he was excited to do it and that the county has “one of the best” sheriff’s offices with amazing deputies and support staff.
“If I’m allowed the honor of leading that group, I would love that opportunity,” Springer said.
Before coming to the sheriff’s office in 1996, Springer attended Montana State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education.
He was then employed as a Yellowstone National Park ranger working in the backcountry, front-country and as a boat ranger.
Springer has served in the sheriff’s office as a detective, a patrol deputy, a K9 officer, a school resource officer, a SWAT commander, commander for the Missouri River Drug Task Force and commander for the Gallatin County jail. In 2011, he graduated from the FBI’s national academy.
Gootkin appointed Springer as undersheriff in 2012.
Springer said his experience gives him the understanding of how the system works here and how to continue running the office effectively. He said being familiar with the county and its residents is the most important characteristic for the next sheriff.
“I believe I have that knowledge,” Springer said.
At the meeting, commissioner Joe Skinner, who moved to appoint Springer, said Springer has proven himself by taking charge when the sheriff left town.
“I have full confidence that he’ll maintain the office of the sheriff,” Skinner said.
Commissioner Scott MacFarlane agreed with Skinner about the decision. He said it was the obvious next step for the sheriff’s office.
“I think it won’t be any surprise to the community that the deputy sheriff would be kind of the automatic step up,” he said.
In the meantime, the county is seeking applicants until Feb. 5 to take over the position permanently. After interviews, commissioners will aim to pick a replacement at a public meeting on Feb. 23 to serve until the end of 2022, when Gootkin’s term is up.
That person would then have to run for election to continue serving as the county’s top law enforcement official.
State law requires that applicants have a valid Montana driver’s license, have not been convicted of a crime that is punishable by jail time in a federal or state penitentiary and is a high school graduate or has been issued a high school equivalency diploma. Applicants are also required to be eligible to receive and distribute criminal information through a “criminal justice information network.”
Gootkin’s last day as sheriff was Dec. 31. He is awaiting confirmation from the state Senate to serve as director of the corrections department.
Gootkin had worked for the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office since 1993, serving as undersheriff, a patrol deputy, jail administrator, a sergeant in Big Sky and as a detective with the Missouri River Drug Task Force.
In 2011, the Gallatin County commission named Gootkin to replace then-retiring sheriff Jim Cashell. In 2012, he won an election to continue working as the sheriff. He won reelection twice.