McAuslan to retire as county coroner; deputy will run for post

Feb 13, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Chief deputy coroner Mark Stratmoen is running Fremont County Coroner this year as a Republican.

Stratmoen announced his plans Wednesday, the same day longtime Coroner Ed McAuslan said he was retiring at the end of his current term.

"I feel that my experience working under Coroner McAuslan puts me in the best position to serve the people of Fremont County," the Riverton resident said.

He has 15 years total experience with the coroner's office, including seven years as chief deputy and 10 as the department administrator, Stratmoen said in an interview.

Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett and Treasurer Scott Harnsberger have also announced their intentions to run for their respective positions this year. Potential candidates still have months to decide to run, as the period to file officially is May 15-30.

The primary elections is Aug. 19 and the general election is Nov. 4.

McAuslan, 70, said he is stepping down because he wants to retire.

"I think he'll be a good coroner," McAuslan said of Stratmoen during an interview Wednesday. "He's worked for me for quite a few years, I've seen his work, I've seen what he does, and he does a good job."

Without knowing who else might run, however, McAuslan said it was too soon for him to endorse anyone.

Stratmoen, 60, said he believes his service as a medical-legal death investigator for a federal team that responds to large disasters would aid him as coroner. In 2005, he was deployed for 16 days to investigate deaths resulting from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.

"There's a lot of training involved in being a part of that team, and all of it is applicable for the needs of Fremont County, especially should, heaven forbid, a natural disaster occur here," he said. "The general training for a medical-legal death investigator is standard for anyone in that profession, so extra training never hurts."

He is under no obligation to take part in any response to a disaster, so the work is not a commitment, Stratmoen said. It would not interfere with his work as coroner if elected, he said.

Stratmoen said he would pursue hiring a forensic pathologist to perform autopsies in Fremont County, as McAuslan has proposed.

"I think it would be a great benefit to Fremont County," Stratmoen said. "The initial analysis that we have done shows that it could certainly be at least a break-even proposition. The benefit is that you're spending the money here in Fremont County, so break-even is a plus."

The Fremont County Coroner's Office now contracts with a forensic pathologist in Loveland, Colo. to perform its autopsies.

Bringing such an expert to Fremont County would have more than just financial benefits, according to Stratmoen.

"He is more readily available for consultation on all cases, not just autopsies," Stratmoen said.

Stratmoen didn't specify big changes he would make to the office if elected, but he said he would handle some administrative aspects differently.

His current position entails much of the same work as the coroner position, but the elected job includes more responsibility, Stratmoen said.

"It would basically be the same as I'm doing now, except more... and the coroner has the ultimate responsibility for what goes on within an agency," he said.

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