My Take on the Taylor County Coroner's Race
The untimely death last fall of Taylor County Coroner, Terry Dabney, created the need for a special election to fill the office he had again won handily a year before. Speculation arose as to who would run for the office. I was asked if I was planning to run and was encouraged to run by some.
Having once served as a deputy coroner I had much familiarity with the office and the duties it entails. My thirty plus years in funeral service in various locations has me given different insights into the operation of the Coroner's office. I gave serious consideration into throwing my hat into the ring but ultimately decided to pass up the opportunity. About the time that I had to make the decision to file for the primary election we got rather busy at the funeral home. It made me realize that if I were coroner I might be forced to make a decision between giving my undivided attention to our clients or fulfilling the duties of the coroner’s office. I always intend to put our clientele first. We do not operate a business of sufficient size where we would have enough employees available to cover the multiple requirements of both a business and a political office with both having unpredictable schedules.
Many of the 120 county Coroner's in Kentucky are funeral directors and funeral home owners. The question that comes up is what would a funeral director have to gain from being coroner? I know that some coroners hope to gain business through holding the office by having the first contact with a family experiencing a death. In some cases there is no one interested in running for the office and a funeral director takes the opportunity to gain the office relatively unopposed. Some probably like the prestige, salary or other benefits that might come with the office. While Terry Dabney and I had been acquainted since he offered me the opportunity to return to Taylor county to work for him several years ago, I had never asked him what motivated him to run for coroner. Whatever the reason, he filled the office for a number of years and breezed to reelection by a large margin in the last election without actively campaigning. I am confident that he probably underwrote much of the expense of operating the office through his business meaning he put more into the office than he ever got out of it.
Personally I feel that the coroner should be independent of a funeral business. This reduces the opportunity for there to be a conflict of interest. The fact that a non-funeral director announced to run for the office this time helped me to make my decision not to run. Without an independent candidate I very well may have chosen to run to attempt to keep a competitor from getting the office.
Knowing that the Republican candidate is a former employee of Mr. Dabney and is supported by his wife caused me to wonder if the candidates loyalty to the Dabney’s would present a conflict of interest. Maybe I am just paranoid about such things. Since I would have to face him in the primary if I chose to run, I met with the candidate, Daniel Cook. I wanted to see what his intentions were for the office should he win. Daniel explained his background and his motivations for seeking the office. I found him to be sincere and genuinely interested in operating the office with integrity. He explained his plans to take the office out of the funeral home into facilities provided by the county. Under Kentucky statutes counties are mandated to provide the facilities and equipment needed to operate the office of coroner. I came away from the meeting with Mr. Cook feeling confident that if elected he would operate the office impartially. I agreed to provide any assistance he needed once he attains the office and to support him in his election efforts. Daniel Cook is a family man and a public servant that I feel is qualified to be the next coroner of Taylor County.