Four seek coroner’s position

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Editor’s note: There are four Republican candidates, all from Meeker, for county coroner. A primary election will be held in August, but Saturday’s Republican County Assembly will determine which candidates go forward and in what order their names appear on the ballot. Following are their responses, in alphabetical order, to the same set of questions.

Name: “Robin Baughman, though most folks know me as Rob.”
Occupational background: “My background has been in law enforcement. I became a member of the U. S. Army Military Police Corps in 1971 and found myself in beautiful southeast Asia (better known as Viet Nam). After returning to the ‘world’ I had a few stateside assignments before being sent to Germany. After six years (actually five years 11 months and 27 days) in the Army, I returned to Colorado Springs and went to work for El Paso County as a deputy sheriff, where I worked for four years before becoming a member of the Colorado State Patrol in 1982.”
Relevant experience: “Meeker was my first and last assignment as a trooper and I felt that I had found a home here. I retired in 2005 and went to work as a part-time seasonal deputy for Rio Blanco County. I will go back on duty in May. As you can see, I have been in law enforcement for 39 years. Since the office of county coroner is an investigative office, I feel that my background as an investigator is what is needed in this office. I am very familiar with what is required at a crime scene and I am more familiar with the court system than I care to think about. I have an excellent working relationship with the courts, district attorney’s office, and the law enforcement community.”
Reasons for running: “What got me interested in this office was when I found out the job of coroner in this county was not being fulfilled and it was apparent that a change was needed and I felt that I would be able to fulfill the obligations of the office. I have been in service to this country or to this county all of my adult life and I felt that this office would give me the opportunity to continue to be of service when I am no longer able to serve as a peace officer.”
What attributes/strengths/skill set best qualify you for this position? “Again, I feel that my investigative background makes me the better qualified candidate but, as I have already stated at some of the political gatherings, regardless of who is elected, the people of Rio Blanco County will be well served. I feel that all three of my (I hate to use the term ‘opponents’) friends are highly qualified for the position.”

Name: Sherri Halandras
Occupational background: “In the early ’80s I completed an EMT course and became an active member of the Meeker Ambulance Service. I was then accepted into the EMT-intermediate pilot program, sponsored by St. Mary’s Hospital. After successfully completing this program, I was hired by Pioneers Medical Center as the director of the Meeker Ambulance Service. During this time, I was also employed by Rio Blanco County as coordinator of the Emergency Medical Services Council. As coordinator I was charged with coordinating the Rio Blanco County Emergency Preparedness Plan, which was completed within my first year in this position. In 1984, I was accepted into the nursing program at Mesa College, where I graduated with honors receiving my degree as a registered nurse. I worked for Pioneers for three years when I felt the need to expand my knowledge and experience. I left Pioneers and began working as a trauma nurse in the emergency department at St. Mary’s in Grand Junction. I worked there for nearly four years and returned to Pioneers, where I have served in many capacities over the past 18 years. I am currently working two days a week on the medical floor and emergency department at Pioneers.”
Relevant experience: “I believe my strong medical background and extensive medical experience are an essential asset regarding an investigation into the cause and manner of death. I am also an active member of the Rio Blanco County Emergency Medical Services Council, which provides me with the opportunity to work with emergency service providers in both Meeker and Rangely. I also served as a member of the Regional Emergency Trauma Area Council for over five years, working cooperatively with emergency service providers in Moffat, Routt, Mesa, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.”
Reasons for running: “For many years, I have had an interest in forensics and the investigation process, but for a variety of reasons I was not able to pursue those interests until now. At this time in my life I feel I finally have the time this position requires. Two years ago, I contacted the Colorado Coroner’s Association regarding training for death investigation certification. I discovered it is not possible to become a certified death investigator in Colorado unless you are already a coroner or deputy coroner.”
What attributes/strengths/skill set best qualify you for this position? “I have spent over 30 years working with patients both in the field and in the hospital. Each case requires knowledge in anatomy, physiology and investigation into the cause of their particular illness or injury to determine appropriate treatment. This same principle applies after a person has died. It is the responsibility of law enforcement to investigate the scene as well as the victim, but it is the responsibility of the coroner is more focused on the victim, which requires knowledge in anatomy and physiology. Critical thinking skills are something I have used every day of my medical career and would serve me well in determining the ‘cause and manner of death.’”

Name: Dr. Albert Krueger
Occupational background: “I am a medical doctor here in Meeker with specialty training in family practice. I trained for a total of 11 years. I am board certified in my specialty and take re-certification examinations every seven years. I also maintain my certifications in advanced trauma, cardiac and pediatric life support and recently became certified in basic and advanced disaster life support. I participate in regular continuing medical education.
“During my medical school education, I have attended numerous autopsies as part of my training in pathology. I also took classes in forensic pathology. My past and current work as a physician in surgery, emergency, acute, ambulatory and preventive health care is giving me the knowledge about a vast spectrum of illnesses and health conditions.”
Reasons for running: “With an upcoming vacancy in this office, I felt that a medical doctor would be the best and most logical choice for this office. Dr. David Eskelson served as a county coroner for more than 40 years and has set the highest standards for this office. Fortunately, coroner calls are a more rare occurrence in Rio Blanco County. Yes, I have a busy schedule, but this will not keep me from fulfilling the duties of the coroner. The medical staff of Pioneers Medical Center is supportive of my candidacy and will cover for me, if necessary.”
Relevant experience: “I never had the responsibility of the office of coroner. Nevertheless, in my work as a physician I have been countless times confronted with the same questions a coroner faces. It is the question of what has caused an illness, injury or death. I have been at crime scenes, collaborated with law enforcement officers and have attended court hearings. I have helped and consoled family members in their time of loss. Having lived and worked both in Rangely and Meeker gives me an understanding of our way of life here and taught me a deep sense of respect for all citizens of Rio Blanco County.”

Name: Nancy Richardson
Occupational background: “I have 12 years experience as an emergency medical technician for Meeker Volunteer Fire and Rescue, have been employed as a patient care technician at Pioneers Medical Center for the past 11 years and have served as a deputy coroner for Rio Blanco County for the past three years. I also have had numerous years of supervisory and management experience as data processing supervisor at Blue Mountain Arts Publishing Company and as advocate/program director for the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office Victim and Crisis Assistance Program and for Meeker Safehouse.”
Relevant experience: “I have served three years performing the duties of a deputy coroner for Rio Blanco County, am certified as a medicolegal death investigator by the Colorado Coroners Association and plan to finish my national certification through the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators in the next few months. I have served as a victim advocate for the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office Victim and Crisis Assistance Program and Meeker Safehouse Inc., am a member of the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Posse Search and Rescue Team, and a member of the Colorado Coroners Association. I also served six years on the 9th Judicial District Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement Board.
“The Coroner’s Office is a statutory office, which is mandated to establish the cause and manner of death and is an independent agency who does not work for the law enforcement agency, the physician, the nursing home, the hospital, the prosecution or the defense, but works on behalf of the deceased to obtain the truth about their death. As deputy coroner, my duties include determining manner and cause of death by performing an independent death scene investigation, collection, preservation and documentation of evidence, taking custody of the body, notification of next of kin, identification of the deceased, causing an autopsy to be performed if necessary, and issuing a death certificate. I am also responsible for gathering information and conducting interviews with medical providers, law enforcement, family and witnesses, providing information to and working closely with other state and federal agencies, initiating the process for organ donation in some situations as long as the donation does not interfere with the coroner’s investigation, and providing training to entities and individuals regarding coroner’s office duties.”
Reasons for running: “Having been a deputy coroner for three years, I understand the challenges of the coroner’s office. I understand the need to be able to interact with both medical and legal entities while following the laws and statutes regarding the reporting and investigation of deaths. I understand the importance of preserving a crime scene and providing compassion to the families of the deceased. I know that the coroner’s office must perform thorough, impartial investigations and provide timely information to those who require it and that it must work in conjunction with law enforcement and the judicial system in order to provide justice for the deceased and their families.
“I believe that there is a need for better compliance with laws relating to the reporting of deaths as stated in the Colorado Revised Statutes. I believe that there is a need for better cooperation and communication between the coroner’s office, law enforcement and the medical community. I know that, as with any organization, there are improvements that can be made.
“Rio Blanco County and I have invested significantly in my training as a medicolegal death investigator. I feel it is my duty to run for coroner due to that investment. Being a medicolegal death investigator has been the most interesting and rewarding position I have ever held. It is an honor to be able to perform this final service for those who can no longer speak for themselves. I believe that the citizens of Rio Blanco County deserve the opportunity to choose someone who has been trained specifically for this job and who understands the challenges a new coroner will face. I believe that I am that person.”
What attributes/strengths/skill set best qualify you for this position? “Section 30-10-601.8 (2) of the Colorado Revised Statutes states, ‘A person who is elected or appointed to the office of coroner for the first time shall, within one year of taking office, obtain certification in basic medical-legal death investigation from the Colorado Coroners Association or another training provider approved by the C.C.S.T. board.’ As a certified medicolegal death investigator, I am currently the only candidate who already has the medical and legal training, certification and experience needed to be the Rio Blanco County Coroner. I am honest, ethical, detail oriented, dependable, caring, compassionate, and calm and effective in high-stress situations. Most importantly, I am dedicated to finding justice for those who have died and helping their loved ones through the trauma of death.”