Chesterton Tribune



Dykes and Wilkening face off in County Coroner election

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In the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Republican Cyndi Dykes and Democrat Randy Wilkening will vie for the open office of Porter County Coroner. The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to candidate questionnaires.

The Tribune set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) Age, place of residence, occupation.

Dykes: 57; Valparaiso; histology technician certified by the American Society of Clinical Pathology, employed at Porter Regional Hospital.

Wilkening: 53; Portage; firefighter/paramedic, Portage Fire Department, current rank of captain.

(2) Describe the Porter County Coronerís responsibilities (75 words).

Dykes: The Porter County Coroner is responsible for investigating all deaths which are a result of a homicide, a suicide, an accident, or suspicious in manner that occur outside a medical facility as well as all deaths that occur within 24 hours of hospitalization. A coroner needs to set high standards for quality service, provide care and consolation to families, and partner with law enforcement and pathologists to efficiently determine the cause of death.

Wilkening: The 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, emergency responders, and take an active role in the education of death prevention.

(3) Describe your specific qualifications for office. Are you a state-certified death inspector at this time? If not, when would you obtain state certification? (100 words)

Dykes: I have been a certified histology technician in the medical field for over 30 years and have 30 years of funeral home experience. I am not a certified death investigator at this time. A newly elected coroner has from Jan. 1 to July 1, 2019, to become certified. Forty hours of intense training are required in February. After passing the exam at the end of training, an externship with a forensic pathologist is required to complete the certification. The elected coroner is in charge of the office and can function in full capacity through the process of completing the certification.

Wilkening: I 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 investigatorís 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 chief.

(4) Why are you seeking the Office of Coroner? (75 words)

Dykes: Investigating a cause of death and helping families at the worst time of their lives is a very humbling public service. I have the experience and knowledge to work with first responders, law enforcement, fire departments, and pathologists in this capacity and continue the professionalism of the Porter County Coronerís office with the compassion, integrity, and respect needed to take care of the citizens of Porter County.

Wilkening: 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.

(5) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and indicate in particular why you believe yourself to be a better candidate (100 words).

Dykes: My job experiences in the medical field and funeral home have given me unique qualities that I can bring to the coronerís office. In my field I work with three pathologists every day, one being a forensic pathologist. In the past I have assisted all varieties of autopsies, including forensic autopsies alongside law enforcement and coroners. I have learned the processes of investigating the cause of death, chain of custody, chain of command, and the importance of communication. In my funeral home experiences, I am familiar with death certificates and the importance of providing care and consolation to families.

Wilkening: I have an advantage over my opponent because Iíve 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 investigation. Iíve 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 allows me to understand all sides of a death investigation. As an administrator with the Portage and South Haven Fire Departments I also understand government finance and budgets.

(6) What are the key issues in this race? (100 words)

Dykes: My goals for this position are to find ways to lower costs for toxicology testing and get results in a timelier fashion so that families can begin to have closure, pursue insurance, estate, and other financial matters. I want to respectfully work hand-in-hand with law enforcement agencies, first responders, and fire departments, having more consistent information relayed to the pathologists. I want to continue to work with agencies to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic along with unnecessary deaths that plague our county today. Last but not least I want to be cost-effective and demonstrate conservative values.

Wilkening: The main focus is death education. The opioid crisis is at epidemic proportions and I have an advantage because of my unique experience and qualifications. I have helped combat and educate people about drugs and have been on many overdoses and given Naloxin. There is also a need to educate people on the growing number of infant deaths due to unsafe sleep, on which I am a state instructor. We are also in need of a morgue. With the money savings due to the new law and grant to pay for toxicology tests, I believe we can support our own morgue.

(7) Do you consider the Coroner to be more of an administrator than a responder? Do you intend to take an active roll in death-scene investigations or do you expect instead chiefly to rely on your deputies in the field? (100 words)

Dykes: The Coroner is both an administrative role and responder. The Coroner must manage budgets, run a cost-effective office, and be a positive leader for the deputies so the office can work as a team to provide the most efficient and professional investigation to the cause of death. I plan to take an active role in death-scene investigations in order to keep strong partnerships with law enforcement, first responders, fire departments, and pathologists.

Wilkening: The Coroner should be a responder to understand the job and know when the job is being done correctly. I have been on numerous death scenes in my 33 years and know how to preserve a scene and know when it's been done incorrect. I also feel the Coroner needs to be able to cover when there is not a deputy available. An important fact is that the budget only supports so many deputies including the Coroner. If the Coroner does not respond to calls, more deputies will need to be hired at tax payersí expense.

(8) Previous coroners have developed close working relationships with law enforcement and the media. How would you strike a balance between your full-time job and the demands of the office? (75 words)

Dykes: Working with pathologists every day at Porter Regional Hospital gives me the unique opportunity to be involved in postmortem investigations at any time and discuss cases. The office has highly qualified deputies that rotate 12-hour shifts to divide up the work load. The majority of the office employees are committed to other jobs. I want the office to work together as a team to continue close working relationships with law enforcement and the media.

Wilkening: I have worked side-by-side with law enforcement as a firefighter, a SWAT member, and reserve police officer. I have also been an administrator and given many interviews and made press releases. My unique schedule allows me to work one out of every three days and I am also able to trade shifts when the need arises. I would have no problem with business hours during the week or late night hours.



Posted 10/2/2018




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