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Election 2010: Democrat Schulte vs Republican Harris in Coroner race

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In the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 2, Democrat incumbent Robert Schulte and Republican Chuck Harris will vie for the 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.

Schulte: 39, Kouts, Valparaiso firefighter/paramedic.

Harris: I am 41 and live in Valparaiso. I am a licensed funeral director for a local funeral home and also own C. Harris LLC. which operates rental properties.

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

Schulte: The Office of the Coroner, as per Indiana state statute, is charged with the determination of cause and manner of death in any person in the county that has died by violence, by casualty, when in apparently in good health, or has died in an apparently suspicious, unusual, or unnatural manner.

Harris: The core responsibility of the Coronerís Office is to determine the cause and manner of death of decedents under the Coronerís jurisdiction. A second key element of the Coronerís responsibility is to identify the decedent.

(3) Describe your qualifications for the office, including whether you are a state certified death inspector. (75 words)

Schulte: My extensive medical background in conjunction with my education in criminal justice makes me the most qualified candidate. A coroner must adequately investigate the circumstances surrounding suspicious/unexplained deaths, and my IU education and certification as a medico-legal death investigator make my qualifications stand out. A coroner must also apply his/her medical knowledge to determine cause and manner of death. As a paramedic, I am very knowledgeable in the pathophysiology of disease states.

Harris: I hold certification by the State of Indiana as a medico-legal death investigator and have held that license since the state started requiring the certification. I also have over six years of experience as a deputy coroner for Porter County. I also hold a certification from FEMA for their National Response Plan. I graduated from Ball State University with a bachelorís degree in biology and then graduated from Worsham College of Mortuary Science.

(4) To Schulte: Why are you seeking re-election to the office? (75 words)

I hope to be elected to my own term as Porter County Coroner because I know that I have efficiently, accurately, and compassionately performed my duties since taking office on March 1. I have made improvements to many systems that are currently in place in the Coronerís Office and hope to be able to continue to work hard for the citizens of Porter County.

To Harris: Why are you seeking election to the office? (75 words)

I have considerable experience for the office. Further, I envision using this experience to help fight the rising drug influence in our county. A study commissioned by Porter Starke found that our county was 321 percent above the national average for heroin related ER visits, clearly showing a problem I feel the Coronerís Office could at least attempt to help combat.

(5) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and indicate why you believe yourself a better candidate. (125 words)

Schulte: I believe that I am the best candidate because of my medical and investigative background. I have dedicated my life to public service with my career as a firefighter/paramedic. My high moral and ethical standards also make me the best candidate.

Harris: First and foremost, I am a licensed medico-legal death investigator and have six years of experience in the office. I also have 14 years of experience working as a funeral director which is a great benefit when dealing with the families of the deceased. Most of the deaths that the Coroner deals with are sudden and unexpected and leave the families in a state of distress; I believe that my years of experience as a funeral director help me deal with the decedentís family.

(6) What are the key issues in the race? (125 words)

Schulte: The main issue in the race for Coroner is selecting the most qualified candidate.

Harris: I believe there are three key issues to the Coronerís race. First, I believe that the county has a silent epidemic with the heroin related deaths and honestly believe the Coronerís Office could have an effective role in combating this problem. Secondly, autopsies in the county are currently not being performed on a daily basis as they were in years past, causing problems with the decedentís family who are making funeral arrangements for their family member. For instance, if a death occurs at 11 a.m. on a Friday the autopsy will not be done until Monday, leaving the body to sit unattended for several days. Lastly, the number of ďpendingĒ death certificates causes duplicate paperwork and delays for families attempting to make insurance claims.

(7) If elected, do you anticipate making staffing changes in the Coronerís Office? Why or why not? (50 words)

Schulte: I would retain all staff members, who are all very qualified staff. We currently have professionals who work daily in the police, fire, EMS, nursing, and education fields, whose broad base of experience adds different insight to the office. All staff members are also Indiana certified medico-legal death investigators.

Harris: I believe that all good leadership comes with an honest and fair assessment of oneís surroundings. With that being said, I would need to interview all the current staff before making any staffing decisions.

(8) Do you regularly attend meetings of the Porter County Council and Porter County Commissioners? Why or why not? (50 words)

Schulte: I do not currently attend every Council and Commissioner meeting. I attend only those meetings that pertain to the Office of the Coroner.

Harris: I currently do not regularly attend Porter County Council or Porter County Commissioner meetings because my current position and past positions have not required me to do so.

(9) 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)

Schulte: My 24/48 hour schedule as a Valparaiso firefighter/paramedic allows me the flexibility to respond to death scenes whenever needed, with two out of every three days dedicated to the Coronerís Office. Also, the five Deputy Coroners and one Chief Deputy Coroner on staff give the office additional flexibility.

Harris: I have already had over six years of working with the demands of the office and have a proven track record of balancing my schedule with the officeís needs. I understand that the Coroner must always be accessible which is a responsibility that I have worked with in the past.


Posted 10/7/2010




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