Richardson wants to modernize office |

Richardson wants to modernize office

Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY – One of the only contested races for office in Summit County is for the coroner’s job, but the decision will be made before November.

First-time candidate Joanne Richardson of Dillon will face off against fellow Republican and incumbent Dave Joslin in the GOP primary election Aug. 13. Richardson, a certified paramedic and death investigator, got her first taste of the job as a deputy coroner in Summit County from 1994-95.

A story in Sunday’s Summit Daily News incorrectly stated Richardson is currently a deputy coroner.

Richardson holds up her extensive training and experience in the field as her best recommendation. She said the people of Summit County deserve thorough examinations and reliable explanations of death from their coroner.

The Summit Daily News asked the candidates six questions. Richardson’s answers follow:

Q: Why would any sane person want to be a coroner?

A: I enjoy the challenge of information-gathering and problem-solving, combined with the very human need to provide answers and closure to victims’ families and friends during very difficult times. I feel a real sense of duty and responsibility to the community when I am serving in an office that people look to for answers and help. To be able to help people in their worst time through compassion and empathy is what makes this my career of choice.

Q: How would you improve the coroner’s office?

A: I would like to computerize it to make it more efficient. This will mean typing reports on the computer and being able to download photos into a case file. I will always return phone calls and people can reach me 24 hours a day. I will also write policies and procedures that reflect the changing times and growth issues. I understand the county’s financial situation, so to make these upgrades, I will write grants to save taxpayers’ money. I also feel public education is part of the position, whether it be safety issues on the use of helmets and seatbelts or educating people as to what the roles and responsibilities of the office are.

Q: Currently, the coroner’s office doesn’t use the mortuary in Breckenridge. What are your feelings about that?

A: The one thing the public needs to understand is that a funeral home and coroner’s office are two completely different businesses. The coroner serves the public and the budget is supported by tax dollars. A funeral home is a private business, so people will assume that the coroner’s office supports that particular funeral establishment thereby creating a very real conflict of interest.

Q: Who are the mentors, role models or leaders you would try to emulate as coroner and why?

A: When Gary Lindstrom was coroner, he deputized me so that I could take classes and intern with the Denver Medical Examiner. He recognized my interest in finding the truth and providing answers. He encouraged me. I owe a lot to him and I look forward to working with him in his current capacity as a county commissioner.

Q: What are the three most important responsibilities, in order, it would be your duty to perform as coroner?

A: Statutorially, the coroner’s main job is to investigate the cause and manner of death, as well to properly identify someone. Personally, I feel that compassionately notifying and working with next of kin and serving as a resource to the community for education and answers are important responsibilities as well.

Q: This past year, the Legislature approved a salary increase for county coroners. Given Summit County’s relatively low number of deaths, was this necessary?

A: Yes, this was necessary because it takes qualified and compassionate personnel to do this important job. It is hard to compare salaries when what is now right was wrong for so long. It is important to note that the salary increase was not obtained ambiguously. It was obtained by instruction from the state House. The job is independent, the office stands alone. Ten years ago, reports may have been two pages long. Now they can be 15 pages long or more. Because of the complexity, legality and liability issues surrounding cases, it is important to have the right person to do this job. The job is not 9-5.

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