News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Coroner race takes shape with pair of GOP candidates
Aug 4, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
Stratmoen and Weigel competing
A contest for Fremont County Coroner has been uncommon in recent elections, but the announced retirement of longtime Coroner Ed McAuslan has opened the field.
Two Republicans vying for the office used recent interviews to address issues facing the agency.
The public gets the chance to hear from both candidates, Mark Stratmoen and Dominick Weigel, in person at an Aug. 9 forum at 11 a.m. in the Wyoming Indian High School tech center in Ethete.
The two men square off in a primary election Aug. 19. No Democrats filed for the primary, although a write-in nomination is possible.
- 15 years as coroner's deputy, including seven as chief deputy and 10 as office administrator
- 60 years old
- Lives in Riverton
- 600 hours of coroner basic training and continuing education
- 15 years as funeral director and embalmer
- 7 years as a deputy coroner
- 41 years old
- Lives in Lander
- Bachelor's degree in mortuary science from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
Hiring a forensic pathologist
"We'll continue to pursue it," he said. "We'll probably have to offer a higher salary."
He thought more detailed projections requested by the commission are the next step and could give more details on the costs it would take.
"I think in order to get it established, the best we'll do is break even -- maybe lose a little the first two years," Stratmoen said.
Hiring a forensic pathologist would be in line with the coroner's statutory obligation of having autopsies performed, he said.
"At the very least we could be spending that money here in Fremont County rather than in Colorado," Stratmoen said.
"Doesn't mean we'll necessarily be spending any less, but we'll be spending it here."
Having a local expert would be better for families of the deceased, he said.
"Things could happen faster. We could have local consultations and investigations rather than in Colorado," Stratmoen said. "That always puts a delay on releasing the remains to the family."
There would be other upsides as well.
"With establishing Fremont County as a forensics hub in central Wyoming, there is a possibility of great benefit to the county in the long run," he said.
"I still think it's one of those things that is a necessity for Fremont County. It really is going to be a benefit for the people of Fremont County," Weigel said. "Unfortunately, as you look at numbers...the initial cost it is going to be a little bit of an investment."
He thought the project would be worth it over time, however.
"Once we get the office up and established...they're going to be doing services for Fremont County, and any services they do for other counties will be a financial asset," Weigel said.
A higher salary, which has so far been an obstacle, could lead to more candidates for the job, he said. Without more research, however, he did not know what level of remuneration would be ecessary.
"The other part of that, too, is the family knowing their loved one is not traipsing around the state of Wyoming and going down I-80 (to have an autopsy performed in Colorado)," he said.
"They would know their loved one is here and not going out of state, and then we're spending all that money out of state -- that's revenue that should stay here."
The 60-year-old said he was the most qualified candidate, pointing to his 15 years as a deputy coroner, including seven years as the chief deputy and 10 as the office administrator.
He has been the only full-time employee of the coroner's office for several years.
"I've been the lead investigator on over 400 cases, including 19 homicides," he said.
"I have much more experience as far as dealing with the specifics of cases and the hours that I've put in...The public deserves the most experienced person in this sort of a situation."
"He has a few more years experience in (the Coroner's Office), but I have the experience as the funeral director and embalmer with 15 years of compassion and working with individuals in their sad and crisis situations," Weigel said.
"I have learned by working through the coroner's office how to research and how to investigate the cause of death."
He said he has been a deputy coroner for seven years, but his work as a funeral director sets him apart.
"I have the compassion," he said.