Coroner candidates discuss issues

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Ted Sullivan
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
— The Rock County coroner’s race will be the only county election contested in a Democratic primary Sept. 14.

Rock County Coroner Jenifer Keach, 1320 Elida St., Janesville, will face challenger Terry L. Holder, 950 Nelson Ave., Milton. The winner will be unopposed in November.

Keach was appointed coroner in 2005. She was elected to the position in 2006.

Holder is a former autopsy assistant and phlebotomist at William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison.

Rock County voters also will decide in a November referendum whether they want to continue electing a coroner or have the county appoint a medical examiner. The change would not be effective until 2014 because Keach or Holder will be elected to a four-year term.

The county board also wouldn’t have to follow the referendum’s outcome because it will be advisory and not binding.

Keach and Holder each answered three questions about their candidacy.

What are the biggest issues in this race?

Keach said funding is among the most important issues facing the coroner’s office. She said the office’s budget is tight like other county budgets during the recession.

“I want to make sure the coroner’s office continues to provide the best services in the most cost–effective manner,” Keach said. “I will continue to apply for federal and state grants for the funding of ongoing improvements in the office.”

She said forensic services, new equipment and training are among her priorities to better serve residents.

Holder also said the budget is a key issue. She said reducing overtime, updating equipment and improving communication with other agencies also were important.

Employees should learn the policies and procedures of other agencies as they relate to the coroner’s office, Holder said.

Why should voters choose you to be the next coroner?

Keach said she has more experience and education than Holder, making her the best choice. She is a registered nurse with specialties in forensics and death investigations.

“I have been serving as coroner for five years. During that time, I rebuilt the office with professional investigators, improved forensic services and policies for accountability,” Keach said. “I have worked very hard to restore the integrity and public trust in the office. Sometimes the changes have been hard, but I am dedicated to the mission of the coroner’s office and the best interests of the public.”

Keach also said she would continue to work independently but cooperatively with law enforcement, medical providers, funeral homes and other agencies.

Holder said voters should choose her because she is not a politician.

“I’m not a political person. I’m a team player,” she said. “Integrity and respect are huge to me. I want to bring that back to Rock County. Somewhere along the line, that got lost.”

Holder said she would bring compassion to families while serving them during the loss of loved ones. She said her experience includes evidence collection, autopsy work and relationships with law enforcement.

“I might not have a bachelor’s degree behind my name, but my experience exceeds that,” Holder said.

If elected, what are your goals?

Keach said she would continue improving the office through grant funding and a sensible use of resources. She said she wants to improve the office’s morgue facility and mass casualty response equipment in case of a tornado or bus crash.

“We will continue the practice of professional training and certification for the deputy coroners,” Keach said.

She said she wants to continue educating the public about services the coroner’s office provides. She said she also wants to start new programs to increase family services for loved ones of victims.

If Rock County chooses to change to a medical examiner, Keach said she would help with that transition while maintaining services and cost effectiveness.

Holder said she would change the office’s policies to include random drug testing of employees and background checks of new hires.

“That’s something that’s pretty common no matter where you work now,” she said.

Holder said she would try to cut back on the office’s employee turnover. She also said she would reduce the office’s space to save money.

Holder said she would provide investigators with necessary equipment for safe death investigations, including fire boots and hard hats.

Last updated: 3:02 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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