Greg Riat will soon swap his sheriff’s badge for a seat on the Pottawatomie County Commission.
The county’s Republican party elected Riat, rural Belvue, on Thursday to fill the unexpired term of District 3 Commissioner Travis Altenhofen, who resigned recently due to added responsibilities at his workplace.
The election, attended by about 80 persons, was held in the Sunflower Room at Westmoreland, during a special delegate convention convened by the Pott County Republican Party Central Committee.
One of four candidates nominated for the position, Riat will assume the commission seat Jan. 10, when Altenhofen officially steps down.
Others nominated for the post were Norman Stutzman, Belvue; Terry Force, Wheaton; and Armon Bosse, Jr., Onaga.
Riat was elected on the first ballot, garnering an eight-vote majority of the 15 Republican precinct committee men and women in the third commissioner district, which comprises 16 townships in the eastern and northern portions of the county.
“What an honor,” Riat said following the election. “I have loved serving the county as sheriff and there’s a lot of pride that comes with helping to make things better.
“I am conservative and I will handle your money very carefully, I promise you that,” Riat went on. “There are things we can do to make things better and I promise I will try and work hard for you.”
During pre-election questioning by precinct delegates, Riat said he favored preserving the Pott County Courthouse, finding a resolution to the Belvue Bridge and holding commission meetings quarterly in other communities in the county.
“It’s silly to build a new building,” Riat said. “I think we can preserve that courthouse. Why would you tear it down and build new for more money?”
He also proposed installing traffic-controlled stoplights at each end of the Belvue Bridge and making the span one-way to solve the issue of large farm equipment meeting in the middle of the narrow 18-foot deck.
“That might cost $1 million instead of $18 million for a new bridge,” he said, noting that the basic structure of the bridge is still in good condition.
Riat, a fifth-generation farmer in the Belvue area, started with the Pott County Sheriff’s Department in 1989, and was first elected sheriff in 2000. He is currently in the third year of his fifth four-year term as sheriff.
Election to the commission precludes Riat from finishing the final year of his term as sheriff, and he said he intends to resign the office sometime after his election as commissioner is certified by the governor and secretary of state.
Following Riat’s resignation, the Pott County Republican Central Committee will have 21 days to select a new sheriff to fill his unexpired term by a vote of all Republican precinct committee men and women in the county, according to Nancy McCarter, county election officer.
Two persons have expressed interest in the sheriff’s position — Pott County Undersheriff Shane Jager and Wamego Police Chief Michael Baker.