By Tim Eberly
Celebration for Greg Szudera's appointment as Hill County sheriff is paused until Wednesday when the Montana Highway Patrol sergeant returns from work-related meetings in Helena.
Just before Szudera drove down to Helena early Monday afternoon, county commissioners reached him at home.
"We caught him at home and he was leaving right after our meeting," County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said Monday afternoon, minutes after informing Szudera of their selection. "He stopped here so we could give him the news."
During Szudera's brief stopover at the Hill County Courthouse about 1:30 p.m. the county commissioners told him they chose him to fill out newly retired sheriff and coroner Tim Solomon's term, a one-year period of employment Szudera accepted.
"He was very happy," said Commissioner Pat Conway. "He was very pleased that we considered him as an applicant and for selecting him to fill out Sheriff Solomon's term."
Solomon left the position, which has a starting salary of $36,729 $2,305 of which is for the coroner's duties on Nov. 30. Szudera's first day will be Jan. 2, the same day he is sworn in. Szudera could not be reached for comment.
"I'm happy they made the appointment," said Undersheriff Don Brostrom, who temporarily assumed the sheriff's and coroner's duties while commissioners searched for a replacement. "I think Greg's a great guy. I think he'll do great. He's been in Havre long enough that most everybody that works here knows him."
Szudera got the nod over one other candidate, Colorado resident Paul Nagel, for several reasons.
"Greg has been living in this community with us for years, and we are very familiar with his work and his integrity," Conway said. "He doesn't have to start from scratch. He not only knows the physical features of the county, but he's familiar with the deputies that are on staff."
Szudera ran against Solomon in the 1998 election, demonstrating his desire for the position, Bessette said.
"They were both very qualified candidates," Bessette said of Szudera and Nagel. "We just thought Greg's expertise and his desire made him the ideal candidate."
Fifteen of Szudera's 20-plus years with MHP have been at the rank of sergeant. Nagel worked as a sheriff's deputy in Minot, N.D., as an officer on the Lacey (Wash.) Police Department and as a special investigator with the U.S. Air Force.
Nagel "interviewed very well," Conway said. "He impressed us. He was a good candidate. He didn't have quite the experience that Greg had."
No reference check calls were placed on behalf of Szudera. His supporters beat the commissioners to the punch.
"I think all three of us had calls for (Szudera) and we utilized those calls as reference checks," Conway said.