Monday, March 15

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Three strong candidates
seek coroner's office    
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[MARCH 15, 2004]  Each of the candidates seeking the coroner's office gave high praises to current Logan County Coroner Chuck Fricke. Fricke is not seeking re-election following his one and only four-year term. He is credited with improving the operations of the office by upgrading equipment and technology systems and is said to have a smooth-running office.

The coroner is called when a death occurs away from a health care institution or when there is any suspiciousness associated with a death. He or she is called to the scene to gather evidence and work with law enforcement, fire and rescue departments.

The coroner is then responsible for death notification to the family.

The coroner's office determines the cause of death. The cause of death is whether the person died of natural causes, self-inflicted injury, homicide or accident.

In the event of a suspicious death the coroner continues the investigative work with police or sheriff's department detectives, the state's attorney, and forensic pathologists.

The coroner conducts an inquest presenting evidences about a death, and a jury determines the cause of death.

The entire process involves a lot of paperwork.

Three Republican candidates are making themselves available to do the work of that office. Each holds strong qualifications that would allow him to perform the duty of the office well.

Bob Thomas

--Lincoln native

--LCHS grad 1971

--Attended Southern Illinois University

--Lincoln Rural Fire Department since 1977 (27 years on the department)

--Currently deputy coroner

While Thomas is full-time with the fire department, he works part time as grounds supervisor at the Logan County Fairgrounds. He is eligible to retire from the fire department and will if he is elected coroner.

Thomas said: "The fire department has been assisting the coroner's office on scene for 10 years. I think it is an interesting job. You have to do it professionally. You have to be really courteous to the people. It kind of suits my nature."

Thomas has 27 years going to scenes, working at times with other departments and investigators. As deputy coroner he has actually been able to learn what the job is.

Thomas says that because he will have the time, he plans to respond to every scene himself and with a deputy. He said there are times when it would help for the deputy to have help on the scene.

Dr. David Hepler

--A doctor of chiropractic medicine, providing health care for several thousand local people

--A member of the community over 20 years

--Served for three county board terms; currently a board member

Dr. Hepler says that he doesn't feel it is necessary to make the coroner's job into a full-time job. "I like the idea of people who have lives outside of local politics but bring those experiences to that seat, because that allows you to relate to the people that you are serving," he says.

"I will be available whenever called, [just] as I am in my practice," he says. "I'm on call seven days a week."

Dr. Hepler says we have a Hispanic population that would benefit by his ability to speak Spanish, and he would like to have some deputy coroners able to speak Spanish too. It would be helpful to those families and would aid law enforcement departments also.

 

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To contribute to doing the coroner's job well, he would attend meetings of the county board, as well as the law enforcement meetings.

Dr. Hepler cites his knowledge at the county level as tying in with the coroner's office. He cited the recent issue where an effort was made to allow bars to be open on Sunday mornings at 11. "I was the only individual who participated in those discussions," he said. "I feel this is an office that allows you to participate in other ways so that we can prevent these tragic deaths by using the position you have to help craft legislation that is more pro-health and decreases risks for our population."

He says that serving on the board lets people know how a person will react when the going gets tough. It shows if you will stay with the integrity of your vote or decisions. "And I think people know, whether my decisions have been right or wrong over the years on the board, they haven't been changed by those pressures, and this is an office that would be vulnerable to that," he said

Pairing his capabilities and experiences with the tasks of the office, he said, "I certainly won't have any difficulty interpreting the reports. I understand issues of conflict of interests. I spend my day communicating with people -- the findings that they have, trying to explain what is wrong, what's happened and what their choices are."

While this may be a different situation, Dr. Hepler says, it's similar to what he has been doing for 21 years. "I can bring those experiences to this office," he says.

Don Peasley

--Born and raised in Atlanta

--Logan County resident his entire life

--19 years as medical technician with the Atlanta Rescue Squad

--19 years in the funeral industry

--Nine years with the Atlanta Fire Department

"I feel like I want to give back to the community," Peasley says. "The coroner is a highly respectable job that requires a lot of work. I feel I have the qualifications to do that process because for over 19 years in the funeral industry I have dealt with families going through the grief," he says.

Peasley, like the other candidates, also feels that the size of Logan County does not warrant a full-time coroner. The salary is not there, but that depends on the county board, the finances, county assets and the office also.

"Being a business owner, I can allocate whatever time I need to work the coroner's office as needed," he says

Peasley says he would retain all the deputy coroners who want to stay and would try to keep it running the way Fricke has. As county finances allow, he would continue to look to upgrade things like equipment, cameras, computers that are needed for investigations.

He would move the office from the Fricke-Calvert-Schrader Funeral Home to his office at Peasley Funeral Home.

Peasley asks for your vote, saying, "I'm very caring. I'm very interested in the professionalism of the coroner's office, and I would make it run smoothly."

[Jan Youngquist]

Comments by candidates were made at the "Candidates speak out" forum at Starbucks on the campus of Lincoln Christian College.

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