In the primary
election on Tuesday, May 8, Dale Bagnall and Randy Wilkening will vie for
the Democrat nomination for the open position of Porter County Coroner. The
Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to a candidate
set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.
(1) Age, place of
Porter Township; I have worked the past three years as Deputy Coroner and
the past 11 years part-time at Moellerís Funeral Home.
Portage; Iím a Firefighter/Paramedic with Portage Fire Department with
current rank of captain.
(2) Describe the
Porter County Coronerís responsibilities (75 words).
Coronerís Office takes care of the deceased and notification to the family
to make necessary arrangements. The office also provides and assists the
order of events to follow.
Coroner is responsible to make sure death certificates are filed properly,
determine when or if an autopsy is needed, and to make sure deaths are
investigated thoroughly and properly. The Coroner should also work with law
enforcement and emergency responders and take an active role in the
education of death prevention.
(3) Describe your
qualifications for office. Are you a state-certified death inspector? (75
Bagnall: I am a
state-certified medicolegal death investigator. I am the only experienced
candidate with over three yearsí experience and currently working for the
have been a Paramedic for 30 plus years, SWAT team medic for 19 years,
reserve police officer, and worked in a funeral home. I have not taken the
one-week death investigators class but I have had numerous classes in infant
death investigation, drug abuse awareness and prevention, crime scene
preservation and investigation, and numerous medical, safety, and law
enforcement classes. I also have administrative experience being a past fire
(4) Why are you
seeking election to the Office of Coroner? (75 words)
Bagnall: I want
to carry my experience over as a current Deputy Coroner and past business
owner to benefit the county. I will be available as your hands-on, full-time
During my 30-year career, I have experienced death from the medical side,
law enforcement side, and funeral home side. I feel my training and years of
experience have prepared me to be Coroner. I also feel my experience as an
instructor, administrator, and my involvement with many community
organizations will help move the Coronerís Office forward in the area of
death education and prevention.
yourself from your opponent and indicate why you believe yourself to be a
better candidate (125 words).
Bagnall: I am
already certified and the only experienced candidate with over three years
and currently working as a deputy coroner. I have leadership skills after
owning my own business, Indiana Furniture, for over 30 years.
feel I have an advantage over the other candidates because I have been one
of the first to arrive on many death scenes having to determine when and if
the Coroner needs to be called and then securing and preserving the scene
for an investigation. I have been on numerous multi-casualty scenes
including two South Shore train accidents and the Beta Steel explosion. My
experience in the medical, law enforcement, and funeral home fields allow me
to understand all sides of a death investigation. My experience as an
administrator with the Portage and South Haven Fire Departments also helps
me to understand government finance and budgets.
(6) What are the
key issues in this race? (100 words)
Re-invigorate interaction between government agencies and client families.
Long-range we need to pursue an independent facility for coroner department.
Making sure the Coronerís Office is run efficiently is first. The main focus
in the race is death education. The opioid crisis is at epidemic proportions
in Porter County and I have an advantage because of my unique experience and
qualifications. I have helped combat and educate people about drugs from the
crack cocaine problem to the methamphetamine problem and now the opioid
epidemic. I have also been on numerous overdose scenes and given Narcan and
have seen the first hand-effects. There is also a need to educate on the
growing number of infant deaths due to unsafe sleep.
(7) Do you
anticipate making any staffing changes in the Coronerís Office? (50 words)
Chuck Harris has a really good staff and everyone works together well.
Wilkening: I do
not anticipate any staffing changes initially until I have had time to
evaluate the office.
(8) The Office of
Coroner requires its holder to be available at any time to respond to a
death scene. How would you strike a balance between your occupation and the
demands of the office? (50 words)
Bagnall: I am
retired and I hold no full-time job, so I can be available at any time to
respond to a death scene.
the Coroner needs to respond, my colleagues will come in for me at a
momentís notice so I can go. There will be situations when Iím one of the
first at a death scene. I also have a unique schedule that can be flexible
when the need arises.