Printed on: January 17, 2013

Lemhi County sheriff takes office

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON -- Lynn Bowerman was formally sworn in this week as Lemhi County sheriff after winning 80 percent of the vote in November.

The four-year term is proof that Lemhi County residents approve of the job the veteran lawman had done since he was chosen in 2010 to fill out the term of the former sheriff, Sam Slavin.

For his part, 59-year-old Bowerman says he's proud to represent a county that has given back as much as he has given.

"Sheriff is a 24/7 job. I promised Lemhi County residents I would be a hands-on sheriff, and that's what I've tried to be," he said.

Bowerman, who has served in law enforcement in one capacity or another for nearly four decades, has been the author of several firsts at the sheriff's office.

He developed a weighty policy and procedure manual to guide his deputies, and he hired the only female deputy in county history.

The father of four children also has authorized his deputies to perform random checks of local schools, a practice tied to security concerns in the aftermath of the school massacre last month in Newtown, Conn.

And he dispatches officers to check on houses that are vacant, a program popular with seasonal and vacationing property owners. Residents also applaud the sheriff for returning tens of thousands in tax dollars allotted to the agency's budget each year.

But Bowerman's most publicly hailed actions came this past summer when the massive Mustang Complex Fire raged across the Salmon-Challis National Forest north of Salmon, stranding boaters and prompting evacuations of outlying neighborhoods.

Bowerman in August led a convoy that brought roughly 300 stranded boaters to safety after U.S. Forest Service officials closed Salmon River Road because of the wildfire.

Bowerman decided to retrieve the rafters after determining some had no food other than government-supplied MREs and that other boaters were suffering from a stomach virus. The same month, Bowerman and his deputies went door to door one night to warn owners of 26 homes near North Fork that the fire was closing in on them.

Marsha Prestwich, who took evacuees into her North Fork home, said the sheriff was on hand in the area in the early morning and often into the evening, attending government meetings to uphold residents' interests and to reassure homeowners that their properties were safe.

"It wasn't just his job. He went way above and beyond that. He was genuinely concerned about the welfare of the county," she said.

While many of the stranded rafters and a number of evacuees termed him a hero, Bowerman said he was just performing his duty.

"I could see the importance of the sheriff being involved in those types of disasters. That's my job," he said.