The Garfield County Coroner position is up for election this year. As it stands now the current coroner will not be running and only one candidate has signed up to run for the post so far. That’s Republican Rob Glassmire who for the past 12 years has worled as an investigator for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department. APR's Roger Adams reports.
“I have a passion for serving victims of crime and serving people in situations where they are at a loss and death investigations is one of those where they just are at a loss and they need someone to help them through the process.”
Rob Glassmire’s investigative skills working for the sheriff would appear to be easily transferrable to the job of coroner. Coroners perform investigations to determine the cause and manner of a death. Manner of death includes suicide and homicide while cause will be the actual medical reason for the death. Perhaps what most people associate most with the coroner job is autopsies but in Garfield County any death case needing an autopsy is sent to forensic pathologists in Grand Junction. Glassmire says the coroner job is a bit mysterious to people who are faced with choosing one in an election.
“Early on in my campaign there were a lot of questions; what does a coroner do? Don’t you have to be a doctor? Are you going to become a doctor? The coroner is not a highly publicized position and its not a highly sought after position.”
If Glassmire ends up facing another candidate voters will need to choose between them. How exactly does a voter select the right person for a job they don’t really even understand themselves?
“Those are good questions.”
Says Patrick Allen. He is the president of the Colorado Coroner’s Association. Allen is also the coroner and medical examiner for Larimer County. He says it is difficult for the average voter to choose a coroner on the ballot.
“How does an informed voter make a choice? I think the main thing is you need to look at the training and experience of the people that are running. So, you know, years of experience, how much they’ve done, what their degrees are. What positions have they served.”
Allen points out though, that under Colorado law a candidate is not required to have any training to run for coroner. They must be 18, a resident of the county and not a felon. Only recently was a requirement added that, once elected, the coroner get training in death investigations. In many smaller rural counties it is often difficult to get anyone to run for the office. For years it has been common in some counties for morticians to step up and do the job. This might seem natural since morticians are familiar with working on dead bodies. Still, occasionally concerns will arise over conflicts of interest between running a funeral home and acting as a county coroner. In Pitkin County the coroner is appointed, it is one of three such counties in the state to do so. Coroner Steve Ayers says working with bodies is not really the focus of the job. It is, he says more about attending to the living because of a death.
“I don’t know if you really need to have somebody that’s a, Quincy or a famous death investigator you need somebody who’s going to be able to run a county office basically.”
While the coroner investigates deaths to answer family questions and help settle financial and criminal issues, ultimately, the coroner must be a good administrator.
“I think then main quality for a coroner is somebody who can work cooperatively with other people; police agencies, district attorney, whose good with families. Who administratively is going to get things done like paper work, the budget and all that sort of thing.
At this point Rob Glassmire is the only registered candidate. For the Garfield County Coroner position. He is a Republican. The Democratic Party did not put anyone forward to run and unaffiliated voters have until July to name a candidate through petitions.