SHOSHONE — Rene King will be the next sheriff of Lincoln County, county commissioners decided Monday.
King, a former deputy with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and current deputy with the Gooding County Sheriff’s Office, will replace former Sheriff Rene Rodriguez. Rodriguez resigned earlier this month after he was charged with seven felony counts, including rape and sexual abuse of a child.
The commissioners voted to make King the next sheriff after interviewing the three final candidates — King, former Lincoln County deputy Scott Denning, and former Lincoln County deputy Verlon Southwick — earlier in the afternoon.
The decision came less than a week after Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Wood told the Times-News that she did not believe there were any qualified candidates in the pool of finalists chosen by the Lincoln County Republican Central Committee.
At least one of the candidates was under investigation and at current risk of decertification, Wood said. One of the candidates, Denning, has an open lawsuit against the sheriff’s office, claiming he was wrongfully terminated in 2017.
Lincoln County Republican Central Committee Chairwoman Joann Rutler previously defended the committee’s choice of candidates to the Times-News, saying that while she could not comment on what the committee found in the candidates’ background checks, members “did our due diligence” in choosing from the eight applicants.
“Let’s just say there are a lot of rumors,” Rutler told the Times-News last Wednesday. “We pushed past the rumors and got to the truth.”
While the commissioners did not ask any questions about the lawsuit or investigations on Monday, two of the candidates similarly mentioned “rumors” and “misinformation” in their interviews.
“I think we have a lot of misunderstandings, mistrusts, misinformation put out about the sheriff’s office, about the people in it, myself, whatever,” Denning said.
King asked the commissioners in his interview if he could “clarify some rumors” about himself.
“I’ve never been fired from Lincoln County,” King continued. “I left in good standing.”
King worked as a deputy for the county for about three and a half years and has worked at the Gooding County Sheriff’s Office for about two and a half years, he said.
A question for Southwick from Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney E. Scott Paul appeared to allude to a legal charge from 2000 in which Southwick pleaded guilty to inattentive or careless driving.
“Is there anything about how you used to act as a young man that’s now different?” Paul asked.
“I like to drive fast. I used to do it on the road quite a bit,” Southwick responded. “I don’t do that anymore.” Southwick added that he has since bought a race car and now races legally on a track.
All three candidates, including King, spoke of the importance of gaining back the trust of the community after Rodriguez’s arrest. King said that as sheriff he would encourage his officers to “go out and meet the citizens” to strengthen the connection between the public and the sheriff’s office.
“Yeah, I’m young, but ... I have a lot of people that know and respect me in the community,” King said, “and I have a lot to bring to the table.”
All three candidates also said they would make an effort to increase the number of deputies who speak Spanish.
“In today’s time, that’s a huge thing,” King said. “Being bilingual is very important.”
Wood said immediately before the vote Monday that she believed King was the best choice based on the interviews and background checks conducted by the commissioners.
The commissioners had until Friday to choose from the three finalists. If they did not select a candidate, the decision would have been turned over to the Lincoln County Republican Central Committee.
King, who also owns a fencing and construction business in Shoshone, told the Times-News after the vote that he was “excited” to be selected.
“We’ll see where this road takes me,” King said.