Sgt. Torey Keltner thought he was at the Eagles Lodge Thursday to give a presentation on the Junior Police Leadership Academy and that the bevy of fellow police officers was there to heckle him.

It wasn’t until he saw Helena High School Principal Greg Upham in the room that he grew suspicious. But even so, Keltner, who serves as a school resource officer at the high school, started extolling the leadership program unaware that he would soon be interrupted.

The presentation had been set up as a guise to honor Keltner as the Helena Exchange Club Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

After realizing he’d been had, the first thing Keltner did — following blushing — was ask his son, Sy, who was there to help him with the presentation, if he was in on it.

“To see the look on my dad’s face when he was surprised — that was classic,” said the younger Keltner, a senior at Helena High.

But, Keltner was eager to get back to talking about the Junior Police Leadership Academy, a program that is close to his heart.

“Do I get to finish this?” Keltner then asked about his presentation. 

Keltner received his plaque from theExchange Club and a $400 check, which he will donate to the Helena Middle School basketball program. After hearing kind words from his cohorts, he went on with his presentation. Another $400 check will go to the Helena Police Department.

“What I’ve seen him do … he’s been nothing short of outstanding,” Upham said, adding that he couldn’t think of a better person to look after the school’s and community’s physical and emotional wellbeing. 

“I applaud you for the work that you’ve done,” Upham said.

Helena Police Chief Troy McGee said Keltner was an obvious choice for the honor. 

“We didn’t have to talk very long. We knew Torey was our man,” he said.

Citing Keltner’s participation in many youth groups and programs, McGee said “He tries to make a difference out there in the community.”

Keltner has been on the police force since August 1999. He was promoted to sergeant in 2006.

After he finished his presentation, Keltner was able to reflect on his award and recover from the surprise.

“It’s awesome. I appreciate it,” he said, adding, “I’m fortunate to be with this team of great people.”

Reporter Angela Brandt: 447-4078 or angela.brandt@helenair.com

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