Heino elected Flathead sheriff

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Brian Heino gathers with family, friends and fellow law enforcement officers at an election watch party at the Hampton Inn in Kalispell on Tuesday. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Brian Heino will become the new Flathead County sheriff after winning Tuesday’s Republican nomination.

The hotly contested race between four Republican candidates turned out to be a runaway for the current patrol captain in the Sheriff’s Office.

With most precincts reporting late Tuesday night, according to the Flathead County Election Department, Heino collected 8,473 votes for 48 percent of the total.

“I want to thank the people for voting for me,” Heino told the Daily Inter Lake from a gathering of close friends and supporters at the Hampton Inn in Kalispell. “This election taught me it couldn’t be done without the support of so many. Having a strong family dynamic, the support of my wife and relying on family and friends has made it more of an adventure than a struggle.

“I’m honored and humbled at the support I’ve received. It says a lot about the community.”

His three opponents — Calvin Beringer, Keith Stahlberg and Jordan White — combined to tally 52 percent of the remaining votes that county residents cast. White was second with 3,284 votes, 19 percent of the total. Stahlberg, a sergeant with the county, had 2,891 votes. Beringer was just behind with 2,854 votes.

Current Sheriff Chuck Curry announced earlier this year he wouldn’t seek another term.

Heino, 40, lauded the professionalism from his opponents.

“We have to continue to work together and support each other,” he said. “It’s a lot for each candidate to put themselves out there, and there is a respect to it.”

Heino received public support from the county Deputies Union, as well as several first-responders.

He thought the support of his deputies was the turning point for him in the campaign.

“Having the support of those that you have worked with over the years, I believe, was the biggest turning point for me,” Heino said. “With the deputies and first-responders supporting me, it was huge.

“We had more than 100 volunteers, going door to door, putting up signs. The support is really gratifying and I thank everyone, but we still have one more election to go.”

While it may seem like a formality now, the general election will be held Nov. 6. There is no Democrat challenger.

Heino, a Flathead Valley native as well as Flathead High School graduate, brings a wealth of experience to the job.

He is the current patrol commander for Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and has been with the department for 15 years. He has 17 years experience in law enforcement.

After receiving his degree in police science from Sheridan College, he worked for the police department in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Heino’s resume includes a wide variety of experience in the department, including SWAT team leader, Drug Task Force, Search and Rescue, Posse Reserve, Field Training Officer, Two Bear Air flight technician, rescue specialist and patrol.

For the fifth-generation Montanan, the growth in the valley and the rise of drug-related crime makes increasing the deputy force and involvement in the county’s schools top priorities.

“My top priorities are focusing on our kids and school safety,” Heino said. “I also want to see us increase our technological capabilities, not only to investigate, but to be more efficient and fiscally sound.

“We also need to continue to work for better agency coordination between fire, EMS and law enforcement,” Heino said.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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