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Butte-Silver Bow commissioners selected Lori Durkin, a current deputy county coroner, to take over as interim county coroner at Wednesday night's council meeting. 

The position was unexpectedly vacated last month, when longtime coroner Lee LaBreche died. 

Commissioners chose Durkin after briefly interviewing her and five other candidates in public at Wednesday's council meeting. 

Sixteen people applied for the position, but three were disqualified because they were not residents of Butte-Silver Bow and seven candidates withdrew their applications or did not show up to be interviewed by council. 

After asking the same six questions to all six candidates, commissioners narrowed the field to two and then voted 8-2 for Durkin over Marcee Cameron, who has also been a deputy coroner in Butte for many years.

In the second round of voting, Commissioners Dan Olsen and Cindi Shaw cast the lone votes for Cameron, while commissioners Michele Shea, Josh O'Neill, Eric Mankins, John Morgan, Brendan McDonough, Jim Fisher and Shawn Fredrickson voted for Durkin. Commissioners Bill Andersen and Dan Callahan were absent. 

In the first round of voting, two other candidates with relevant experience also received votes: Mike Gage, a longtime sheriff's deputy and fire official in Kansas City, and Marci Grant, who said she has some 25 years of experience as an investigator with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. 

The coroner in Butte-Silver Bow is normally an elected position, one LaBreche held for 22 years following his first election in late 1996. LaBreche had recently battled influenza when he died at his home on Feb. 22 at age 55.

LaBreche was last elected in 2016, so Durkin will serve as interim coroner until at least the next election in 2020. She told commissioners she plans to run for re-election then. 

The job pays $37,996, plus a travel allowance.

Durkin has been a deputy coroner here since 2003 and in her application, listed as references Sheriff Ed Lester, City Court Judge and former police detective Jerome McCarthy, and Dan Hollis, a District Court bailiff who was county coroner from 1993 to early 1997.

She also included letters of recommendation from Kim LaBreche, the wife of Lee LaBreche; James Axelson with Axelson Alternative Cremation in Butte; and John Hossfield, president of Wayrynen-Richards Funeral Home.

Kim LaBreche said Durkin started doing ride-alongs with her husband in 2002 and he “thought the world of Lori and always felt safe having her on call.”

“Lori has learned her skill by logging more hours than any other deputy,” LaBreche said in her letter to commissioners. “She was always willing to be on call and worked long hours to ensure that the office ran smoothly.”

LaBreche also spoke during the public comment period prior to Wednesday night's interviews to reiterate her strong support for Durkin. 

"You'd be hard pressed to find someone with more dedication or knowledge of the position," LaBreche said. 

Durkin, in her own letter, said she asked Lee LaBreche if she could be on call full time in 2011 and since then had been on call 24/7. From 2014 until now, she said she had responded to 673 calls and managed the office when LaBreche was out of town.

Cameron said she had earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Montana Tech in 1996 and had been a deputy coroner since 1998. She said she also had more than 20 years of experience laboratory and project management.

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