Editor’s note: Four candidates are running in the Republican primary for Flathead County Sheriff. The primary is June 5. Absentee ballots have been mailed. Here’s a look at the candidates and their views. No Democrats filed for the post.
Brian Heino is running for Sheriff for a simple reason — his peers encouraged him to.
“I had a lot of guys (in the department) come to me and ask me to run,” Heino said in a recent interview. “The majority of those in this office believe in me.”
Heino, 39, (pronounced Hay-no) is the patrol commander for the department. He was born and raised in the valley, graduating from Flathead High School in 1996.
Heino received his associates degree in criminal justice from Sheridan College in Wyoming. Early in his career, he was a Forest Service firefighter and decided to a pursue a career in criminal justice. His first job was with the Sheridan Police Department but when a deputy position opened up at Flathead, he moved back home. He’s been with the department the past 15 years and has served in almost every leadership position including SWAT team leader, search and rescue coordinator, sheriff’s posse coordinator, field training officer, Drug Task Force regional coordinator and a tactical flight officer for Two Bear Air, including being on more than 200 hoists.
As patrol commander, he oversees the department’s 41 patrol officers, which respond to about 43,000 calls annually.
On the local front, he said he wasn’t opposed to a satellite office in the Canyon, but such an office would be expensive. He said a more cost-effective tactic would be to work more closely with volunteer and civic organizations, like fire departments, with a boosted presence during large events, like the Fourth of July.
He noted that adding and outfitting a deputy, after training, costs about $125,000. Having said that, he said one of his priorities is to add two new school resource officers that would serve the schools that don’t have one now. There would be one in the north end of the valley and one in the south end of the valley. They would then work in patrol shifts during the summer months, when the force is at its busiest. He noted school resource officers could potentially identify problem youth before they become violent toward classmates.
He is a strong believer in prevention, but concedes it’s tough to measure.
He said he agrees with the concept of a drug court that would promote intervention over incarceration, but wondered where the funding would come from. The Sheriff Department currently has 57 employees, including the Sheriff, and has a budget of about $11 million.
While the Sheriff is elected, the county commissioners have the ultimate say in the budget.
On the subject of the jail, he said he aims to identify the best course of action in order to expand capacity in our current detention facilities while still maintaining the safety of correctional officers and those who are incarcerated as top priority.
Heino said working with other agencies in the county is key to good law enforcement. A lot of problems can be solved simply by picking up the phone and taking the time to build relationships with other departments.
Heino is a family man. He and his wife Brandy have three children. Heino coaches youth baseball and his children attend St. Matthews school, where he serves on the advisory committee.