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County commission picks Peterson as new county attorney

The county's No. 2 prosecutor has been selected to take over as Hill County attorney later this month.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Cyndee Peterson will replace David Rice as county attorney effective Aug. 25, the Hill County Commission said Thursday.

Gov. Judy Martz last month picked Rice, Hill County attorney for three decades, to succeed Judge John Warner in the 12th Judicial District. Martz had appointed Warner to a vacancy on the Montana Supreme Court in May.

"The Hill County commissioners, at the regularly scheduled agenda date, considered two people for the appointment of county attorney," County Commissioner Doug Kaercher said. "We chose Cyndee Peterson as the one that would best suit the needs of the county at this time. Both applicants could have served the county very well and should be proud of their abilities."

Peterson and Havre lawyer Dan Boucher both applied for the job. Boucher serves part time as a deputy county attorney and also has a private practice.

Peterson will be sworn in as county attorney Aug. 25, the same date Rice is sworn in as district judge. The 12th Judicial District covers Hill, Liberty, and Toole counties."Having worked with Dave, I have no reservations about his ability to be fair. I don't think there's anyone in the 12th Judicial District who does," she said.

Rice said today he is confidant in Peterson's abilities.

"She has proved to a quick learner and an excellent trial lawyer," he said. " The bottom line is she's well qualified, enthusiastic, and I think she'll do an excellent job."

Peterson was raised in Circle. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Montana before attending law school at the University of Akron, in Akron, Ohio. She was admitted to the Montana State Bar in 1997.

She worked in Chester as the deputy Liberty County attorney before accepting a job working as a clerk in Warner's office. Peterson commuted from Chester for a year before finding a home in Havre in 2000. In January 2001, she was appointed deputy Hill County attorney. That November, in response to an ever-increasing workload, the county hired Boucher as a part-time prosecutor.

Peterson, who describes Boucher as "a very good friend," will appoint a chief deputy and a part-time deputy county attorney to work in her office.

Boucher could not be reached for comment.

The county attorney is an elected position. Peterson will have to run for election in 2004 to serve the remainder of Rice's term, then again in 2006 for a full four-year term.

During a ceremony at the County Courthouse, Warner will swear in Rice as his replacement. Rice in turn will swear in Peterson as his replacement.

Peterson said Thursday she is excited about her appointment, adding that Rice has left her with big shoes to fill.

"My long-term goal is to continue to live up to the standards the residents of Hill County have become used to with Dave," she said. " I'm pleased that the county commissioners trusted me with this position."

Peterson said her role as county attorney will mean only a slight change in her duties.

"I think it's going to be pretty much business as usual," she said. "Right now it's just a matter of getting on top of our workload. Ever since Warner announced he was applying for the Supreme Court everyone's been on pins and needles around here. We're ready to buckle down and go to work."

Having a former colleague serve as judge does not make her uncomfortable, Peterson said.


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