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September 19, 2012
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Former sheriff after Summit County coroner job

Former Summit County Sheriff Joe Morales was among four candidates who put their names in the hat for the job of coroner, following Joanne Richardson's recent departure.

Deputy coroner Regan Wood, retired Summit Medical Center physician Tim Keeling and local business owner James Callahan were also interviewed for the position in recent weeks.

The Summit County commissioners are interviewing candidates for a two-year appointment as coroner, after Richardson stepped down mid-term to move to Basalt with her husband.

In two years, the appointed coroner's term will end and there will be a popular election for the office.

During interviews with potential appointees this week, the commissioners focused on fiscal responsibility, budgeting and the importance of building positive working relationships between the coroner's office and other agencies, including law enforcement.

"The budget for the coroner's department is set up with the expectation that the person that is the coroner is putting themselves on the schedule and is in that rotation," Commissioner Thomas Davidson said during a recent interview. "When dealing with elected officials, we've had some cases where we get to the end of the year and the elected goes, 'sorry, I went over budget.'"

Though they are charged with appointing the next coroner, the commissioners do not have the ability to fire that individual before the end of the two-year term.

Morales served as the Summit County sheriff from 1994 until January 2004, when he was tapped by then-Gov. Bill Owens to become the executive director of the state Department of Public Safety. Today, after living overseas, he has returned to Summit County with his wife and daughter.

"I understand how critical it is to always uphold and maintain the public trust by being responsible, transparent and accountable in all aspects of holding and administering public office ..." Morales stated in his letter of interest to commissioners.

Callahan owns a local graphic design business and has previously done contract work for local governments, including Summit County. He's the only candidate who does not have a medical or law-enforcement background, but said his media background would help him in the position.

"My experience in the communications field would be a great asset to community relations and the proper dissemination of sensitive information," Callahan stated in his letter to commissioners. "I am a quick study ..."

Keeling was a doctor with Summit Medical Center from 1990 until he retired last year.

"After retiring, I was looking for something to fill the void," Keeling told commissioners during his interview this week. "The coroner's office provides an interesting and unique opportunity to do something important and meaningful for this community."

Wood has worked as a deputy under Coroner Richardson since 2006, and is now the chief deputy coroner. She has training in medico-legal death investigation, is EMT certified and has a background working with the Advocates for Victims of Assault.

"The office of coroner requires extensive knowledge of the medico-legal death investigation field as well as the ability to provide compassionate and useful information to the surviving family," Wood stated in her letter to the commissioners. "I believe that my personal and professional background since moving to Summit County in August of 1992 have prepared me for this endeavor."

Richardson announced plans to resign her post as coroner at the end of August, timing the announcement to avoid an election for her replacement.

She had been the coroner for 10 years.

The coroner is responsible for investigating fatalities and determining the cause and manner of each death, but is not required by law to have any medical or law-enforcement training to run for office.

Richardson trained her staff to deal with the administrative aspects of the job and said she does have an individual in mind to take over in her absence.


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The Summit Daily Updated Sep 19, 2012 10:46PM Published Sep 19, 2012 10:33PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.