By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer
CARTHAGE, Mo. - All deals apparently are off.
Archie Dunn, named a week ago as interim sheriff, said Friday he has changed his mind and will seek the Republican nomination for Jasper County sheriff.
The County Commission at the departure of controversy-immersed Sheriff Bill Pierce on July 16 said the interim sheriff it would name would not be someone interested in running for the post, so as not to give anyone an advantage for the elective office.
On Friday, two members of that panel said they had no problem with Dunn's decision. Not even the most predictable candidate for the post was making any bones about the twist.
One member of the commission, however, said she did not see the changes of direction as square. "I was under the impression he would not run at the time he was appointed," said Anna Ruth Crampton, Western District associate commissioner. "There were other people interested in the appointment who did not take it because of the conditions we set forth."
Dunn on Friday said he had changed his mind after telling the commission, when they named him, that he was not interested in the job.
The decision does not violate a promise that he would not seek the post, he said, because he made no such pledge.
"What they (the commission) asked me was whether I was interested in the job, and I said I wasn't," he said. "I wasn't at the time, but I've changed my mind in the week I've been here. I've accomplished some things since I started, and I'd like to be able to finish the job."
Two commissioners said Friday they believed Dunn's decision represented a change of heart rather than a betrayal of any pledge to them, while a third disagreed.
"We asked him at the time if he had any intentions of running, and he said he didn't," said Chuck Surface, presiding commissioner. "Since that time, he told me he has been contacted by people who have encouraged him to run, and he has become interested. I firmly believe that when we talked to him, he had no idea of running."
Surface said the commission has no interest in who the parties name for the ballot, adding "none of us are going to the meeting Monday," when Republicans will meet to name a nominee.
The commission didn't extract a pledge from any of the candidates it considered, according to Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner.
"It's a free country, I don't think we could hold anyone to it if we had," he said. "Our main goal was to get someone from outside the department. The rest will just fall where it falls."
Since he assumed the post, Dunn has made several personnel changes and started work with the commission on policies to handle the inmates commissary in the jail, employee travel and extradition programs, issues that apparently played into the state investigation of Pierce and his department.
Dunn said he spoke with commission members Friday and told them he would not run if they disapproved or if the decision would damage the working relationship he has with the members.
"I'm not breaking a promise because I didn't make one," he said. "I wrestled with this, because I want to do what's right."
Crampton and Surface said the commission will continue to work with Dunn and, after Sept. 30, will "work with any sheriff that voters select."
Dunn's announcement means there are two department members seeking the sheriff's nomination. Jerry Neil, a longtime chief deputy, also is a candidate for the GOP post.
Dunn said that issue would create no problem between him and Neil, or anyone else on the department.
"I called everyone together this morning and told them," he said. "I don't anticipate a problem with Jerry or anyone. All I know is, I walk down the hall, and I get smiles."
"I don't have any problem with his decision," Neil said Friday night. He said he even gave Dunn some advice on how to go about becoming a candidate.
Asked whether he was disappointed at the deviations of Surface and Honey from the initial plan, he said he was not. Asked whether he sees serving as a interim sheriff as an advantage for Dunn in the bid for the nomination and election, he said, "I do not think it's a big leg up."
Dunn said he would bring to the job his 31 years of experience with the Missouri Highway Patrol. Just before he retired three years ago, he served as public information officer out of the Carthage substation. He also held zone sergeant and commander positions, after years as a road patrolman.
By Susan Redden