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One minute after the new year began, Paul Cunningham was scheduled to take the oath of office for sheriff of Montague County, which is north of Wise County and northwest of Tarrant County.
Other officials elected last year will take the oath later this morning, but Cunningham said he and his deputies wanted a fast start.
“We wanted to get started as quickly as we could, because we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.
By winning the office, Cunningham has landed in the center of controversy, including an FBI investigation into possible county jail inmate abuse involving drugs and sexual favors, according to articles by The Bowie News and the Wise County Messenger.
“I think it’s an opportunity to take something that is broke and fix it and hopefully give the citizens a Sheriff’s Department that is there for them,” he said.
Cunningham, who was fire marshal of Wise County for about 5 1/2 years, decided to run after being approached by several Montague residents who wanted to replace Sheriff Bill Keating.
With a message combining old-fashioned values with newfangled techniques to serve the public, Cunningham beat Keating in an April runoff.
According to his résumé, Cunningham graduated from Lewisville High School in 1970. He started his career in law enforcement as a sheriff’s deputy in Denton County, then was a police officer in Southlake and Lewisville before switching over to fight fires.
Cunningham became the chief fire investigator for Lewisville, then did fire investigation for private companies before becoming the fire marshal/emergency management coordinator for Wise County in June 2003.