MHP Sgt. Nelson to run for Lewis & Clark County Sheriff

Jay Nelson, Republican candidate for Lewis and Clark County sheriff-coroner, with his family.

HELENA – Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson announced Thursday that he will run for Lewis and Clark County sheriff-coroner, saying he wants to bring leadership and transparency to the office.

A group of about two dozen supporters joined Nelson as he launched his campaign in front of the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse.

In a brief statement for the press, Nelson says he wants to bring leadership, security and transparency to the department and the community.

Pointing at the courthouse, Nelson told the Thursday gathering, “I grew up in that building,” as a 5th generation county resident, and working with his father, the late Mickey Nelson, who served as County Coroner for more than 40 years.

“I grew up five blocks from here,” Nelson said.

He says his father taught him the spirit of service.

“And the most important thing I grew up with is how my Dad treated the people of this community in their darkest hours. He held them to a sense of understanding and professionalism and togetherness to bring them through their darkest hours.”

Nelson is a graduate of Helena High School and Carroll College. He joined the Montana Highway Patrol 20 years ago, where he currently holds the rank of sergeant.

Nelson, running as a Republican, is the first candidate to announce a challenge to incumbent Sheriff Leo Dutton. Dutton filed for reelection in January and is running as a Democrat.

If elected, Nelson pledged to put people over politics.

“I’m ready to lead this community in the good times and the bad and take care of the last and the least of us. Just because you live in a certain nieghborhood or give a certain amount of money to someone…everybody deserves the service from the sheriff’s office and the coroner’s office.”

This is the first election since the Lewis and Clark County Commission consolidated the offices of sheriff and coroner. The change will take effect in January 2019, when the newly elected county officials take office.

Nelson’s father, Mickey Nelson, served for more than 40 years as Lewis and Clark County coroner, until his death in 2016.

In regards to the upcoming race, Dutton issued the following statement:

“I look forward to talking with citizens about what we have done and what we will continue to do. We have a great team and we do good work.”