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Race develops for coroner as Lander GOP announces

Mar 17, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County will have a contest for the county coroner job being vacated by the announced retirement of Ed McAuslan.

Lander funeral director Dominick Weigel plans to enter the GOP primary.

He also serves as a deputy coroner and believes he would bring a compassionate touch to the office.

"When you have somebody that dies in your family, especially if it's unknown or you're concerned about the circumstances, I have, in the past, been able to help families through that dark time and...help them take care of their loved ones," he said.

Weigel announced his candidacy last week, and he spoke Saturday at the Fremont County Republican Convention in Lander.

Chief deputy coroner Mark Stratmoen of Riverton in February announced he also would run for Coroner as a Republican. The primary is in August, and neither man has officially filed as the filing period is in May.

Weigel, 41, has been a funeral director and embalmer at Hudson's Funeral Home for six years. He has worked in the funeral services industry since he graduated in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in mortuary science from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

He would draw on his background as a funeral director if he was elected, Weigel said.

"I've had the opportunity to help individuals who've lost loved one," he said. "A part of that is knowing how to be sympathetic and help them to see I can help them to get their loved one to where they need to be."

Working as a deputy coroner for the past six years also gives him experience in the elected office's duties. As a deputy, he has investigated deaths, transported bodies and worked with law enforcement.

Deputy coroners work on an on-call basis, and Weigel estimated he assisted in about 40 to 50 cases. He took a week-long course at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in Douglas and receives additional training regularly to maintain his certification.

The coroner's duties differ from deputies' in some ways, Weigel said. The deputies respond to deaths, investigate them and determine what they think happened. The elected official makes final decisions, including the manner and cause of death and if an autopsy or toxicology report is necessary, Weigel said.

He also plans to draw on a master's in workforce education and development he received from SIUC in 2001.

"It taught me how to teach adults--how to help adults to learn--and some of the things I would be responsible for would be training for deputy coroners."

said.

The numbers of deputy coroners in Fremont County are dwindling, Weigel said. He would like to address that issue but is still working on how to recruit more people for the job.

He is also concerned with the Coroner's Office's communication.

"It just seems when something has occurred...it's not being explained well," he said.

He pointed to a dispute last year between the Coroner's Office and Fremont County Commissioners over vehicle decals and concerns raised about the Coroner's budget as examples. He did not think the issues themselves were concerning but thought the Coroner's Office could have explained them better.

Weigel supports a recent proposal from Coroner Ed McAuslan to add a forensic pathologist to his staff to perform autopsies.

"I think that would be a great idea, because having somebody that's here would be a whole lot easier on families to know their loved one is being taken care of locally," he said.

Having the expert in the county would also help in legal cases around deaths, he said, because the pathologist would be readily available to provide their findings.

Weigel, who has lived with his wife and their children in Lander for six years, is a member of Lander's Rotary Club, and he is involved with Boy Scouts.

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