Gov. Greg Gianforte has picked Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin to lead the Montana Department of Corrections.
Gootkin, who retired from the sheriff’s office on Dec. 31, is awaiting confirmation from the state Senate. A date for Gootkin’s confirmation hearing has not been scheduled.
In a county news release on Tuesday, Gootkin said he will miss his work in the county. He said he is honored and excited to receive Gianforte’s nomination to be part of his administration.
County commissioners Joe Skinner and Scott MacFarlane extolled Gootkin’s work with the county and wished him luck at his next job.
Skinner said Gootkin worked well with commissioners, and was honest, upfront and reasonable in his budget requests.
“The state’s gain is definitely the county’s loss,” he said.
MacFarlane said Gootkin was always willing to address law enforcement challenges. He said Gootkin is responsible for “driving common sense and compassionate changes” for the health and safety of county residents.
“It is a testament to his career and leadership that the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office is the envy of counties throughout the region,” MacFarlane said.
The county sheriff’s position will remain vacant until county commissioners appoint an interim sheriff. Whitney Bermes, county spokesperson, said county commissioners are working to do that as soon as possible.
The county will then advertise and open applications for the position. After interviews, commissioners will pick a permanent replacement who will serve until the end of 2022, when Gootkin’s term is up.
In the meantime, Dan Springer, the county’s undersheriff, said the office will continue to run as normal. He said when the sheriff is unavailable he typically steps in and becomes the decision maker for the office.
“The sheriff has gone on vacation before and we haven’t had to call him. So we’ll be OK,” Springer said.
Gootkin’s departure comes just months after Bozeman’s police chief left for a job with the Montana Department of Justice. A permanent chief has not yet been hired.
Gootkin did not respond to requests for comment.
Gootkin started with the sheriff’s office in 1993. He has since worked 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 appointed Gootkin to replace then-retiring sheriff Jim Cashell. In 2012, he won an election to finish the remainder of Cashell’s term. Gootkin has won re-election twice since.
In 2017, Gootkin was the sitting sheriff when Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault in Bozeman on the eve of the special election for the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House. Gianforte won that election.
Gootkin received criticism then for not disclosing that he donated $250 to Gianforte’s bid for the position. He later apologized and said the donation wasn’t a conflict of interest with the assault investigation.
Gootkin also donated $500 to Gianforte’s 2020 gubernatorial campaign, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state’s commissioner of political practices.