HELENA (AP) - Col. Shawn Driscoll, chief of the Montana High Patrol for just 15 months, has resigned to take a job with a trucking company in Arizona.
Lt. Col. Randall Yaeger, who is second in command, will be interim chief while a search is launched for a permanent replacement, Attorney General Mike McGrath said Wednesday in announcing Driscoll's departure.
Driscoll, whose last day of work will be Friday, said he had not planned to leave the patrol, but the job opportunity was one he could not turn down.
Driscoll will become a senior investigator for Swift Transportation Co. at the firm's Phoenix headquarters. The company hauls retail and discount store merchandise and other manufactured goods, billing itself as operating the largest fleet of truckload carrier equipment in the United States.
It has 20,000 drivers and 17,000 trucks.
Driscoll said his new job with benefits will about double his $67,000 state salary and his desire for a secure financial future for his family was a big factor in his decision. "I have to look out for my family," he said, noting he has two children to put through college.
Driscoll, 43, became the patrol's fifth chief in the past 20 years when he assumed command in November 2002.
He replaced Bert Obert, who held the job for 2 1/2 years. Obert quit to take a federal airport security job in Belgrade.
Under Driscoll, the patrol has started the process of consolidating its three communication centers into one and computerizing the tracking of officers' activities and the patrol's records management system.
He said the patrol has implemented a new job evaluation system based on the quality of officers' work and created specially trained crash-investigation teams throughout the state to ensure consistency and accuracy in assessing traffic accidents.
"We need to be right on these things and we need to be right every single time," he said.
Driscoll said more needs to be done to improve patrol salaries and increase the number of officers. "Everyone agrees we need more pay and more officers," he said. "The question is whether we have the political will to make that happen."
He suggested some gasoline tax money be used to pay for higher wages.
As chief, Driscoll revived the use of unmarked patrol cars to enforce certain traffic laws and advocated tougher seat belt and drunken-driving laws.
He had some nonwork-related personnel problems while chief. One officer was cited for drunken driving following a Missoula crash in late 2002. Another officer was ticketed for his role in hunting violations near Fort Peck Lake in May 2003, and a third was charged last August with disorderly conduct following a fight outside a downtown Helena bar.
Driscoll joined the patrol in 1984 and was deputy chief for three years before taking over the top job. Yaeger, 47, also started with the patrol in 1984, is one of two pilots for the agency and became lieutenant colonel when Driscoll assumed the chief's job.
The patrol is Montana's largest law enforcement agency with 200 law officers and 70 civilian employees.