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.
set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.
(1) Age, place of
Valparaiso; histology technician certified by the American Society of
Clinical Pathology, employed at Porter Regional Hospital.
Portage; firefighter/paramedic, Portage Fire Department, current rank of
(2) Describe the
Porter County Coronerís responsibilities (75 words).
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.
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?
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.
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
(4) Why are you
seeking the Office of Coroner? (75 words)
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.
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 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.
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
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)
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
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.
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)
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.
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.