SHERIDAN — The story starts something like a Louis L’Amour novel — an Iowa boy goes west and becomes a cowboy and then a lawman. And while this story is not written on the pages of any book, it’s about to get a new chapter.
Reserved and soft-spoken, Capt. Scott Chandler chooses his words carefully when he speaks. He muses about growing up in the Midwest before moving to Montana.
“The lure of being a cowboy drew me out there,” Chandler said. “I worked on a 450 section ranch. That kind of life is quickly fading, so I’m grateful that I got a chance to enjoy that and learn that kind of lifestyle for a little bit.”
He lived the life, working the ranch and spending weeks or months at a time in cow camps. As a hunting guide he formed friendships that still stand today.
“There were these guys from out near Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, who still go out to hunt,” he said. “I don’t guide them anymore, but I still go up to see them when they come.”
Ten years after moving to Montana, Chandler was ready for a change. He applied for a position at the Rosebud County Sheriff’s Office in Forsyth, Montana, which he didn’t get. Then Chandler met Bob Green, a detective with the Sheridan Police Department.
“He invited me to come and test for a police officer position,” Chandler said. “There were 130 guys testing for two positions, and I got one of those positions.”
As a man who has been working since high school, Chandler has not had the time for the type of educational regimen that ends with a degree. But with an accumulated 80 college credit hours and 2,000 hours of law enforcement training, he is far from uneducated. He said he was also able to draw from his life on the ranch.
“The morals and values of the people I worked with, and my mentors, the people who owned the ranch, helped prepare me for this position,” he said.
But Chandler also champions another influence during his years in law enforcement — family.
“I owe a lot to my wife,” he said. “My wife and kids endured a lot of me working shift work, me working weekends, me not being around for a holiday. But they stuck by me.”
Chandler was promoted to sergeant, then to lieutenant. In 2006, he made captain.
“It’s a long time to spend in a supervisory role,” he said.
Chandler said when he hit 20 years with the police department, he told himself he’d leave in five more years. With two new lieutenants able to pick up some of his duties, he said it’s a good time to leave.
“I’m going to take a month or two off to spend time with family and friends,” he said. “I just want to relax a little bit, refocus. There’s a couple of things I’m looking into, but nothing definite. I want to do something different and learn something new.”
It was during this final year on the force, though, that things changed quickly.
When Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, died in June, Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey was appointed senator in his place. City Council President John Heath was nominated by the Council to step into the mayor’s position. Heath appointed Police Chief Richard Adriaens to be an interim chief-of-staff, and Chandler became interim police chief, a position he has held two times before during department staffing changes.
“It’s a little less hands-on,” Chandler said. “I had to appoint one of my sergeants to be an administrative sergeant, and he kind of took over some of my captain’s role.”
When Chandler leaves, Adriaens will step back into the role of police chief, and it will be time for the Iowa boy turned cowboy turned lawman, to ride off into the sunset. But not too far into the sunset.
“I love Sheridan,” Chandler said. “It’s a wonderful place to live. I like to think I’ve had a part in maintaining the quality of life here and making it a place that people want to come to, and a place that people want to stay, and a place where people want to stay safe.”