Originally created 02/29/04

Tuten for coroner

It's not the most exciting office. And Grover Tuten and Jimmy Wylds aren't the most excitable candidates; you won't get a Howard Dean wail out of either.

But voters need to pay strict attention when they elect one of these gentlemen coroner on Tuesday.

We've interviewed both at length. We're not sure we can go wrong with either man.

But on balance, owing to an unassailable, rock-solid base of experience, we enthusiastically endorse Grover Tuten for coroner.

First, your obvious threshold question: Why should you care about the coroner's office?

Yikes! Imagine the community without a coroner. Your friends, loved ones and neighbors might pass away shrouded in mystery. How did they die? Why did they die? Was it simply their time? Or did a foul character have a hand?

What kind of peace of mind might we aspire to under such circumstances? Knowing that we'll never know how our loved ones met their end? Or whether someone today is walking around having hastened their demise?

In short, because we care about those around us, and because the manner of everyone's death matters - and the potential for someone getting away with murder is too distasteful to even consider - the coroner's job is essential. No civilized society can afford to be without a good one.

Now ask yourself this: How long do you suppose a man should train for such a vital job? Months? A year or more?

Well, it could be said that Mr. Tuten has been training for the job for several decades. A longtime deputy coroner, and currently acting coroner since the untimely death of LeRoy Sims late last year, Grover Tuten is in his 26th year in the coroner's office. He has served under three coroners in that time.

His experience - all along bolstered by continuing education in death investigation - is as broad as it is deep: He also has experience as both a police officer/police chief, and as an emergency medical technician. In fact, he has been an instructor in both fields.

The law enforcement background - including two stints at the August Police Department sandwiched around eight years and a chief-of-police designation at the Warren County Police Department - gives him a solid foundation for criminal investigations. The EMT training, and treatment of 500 patients for all manner of injuries, gives him valuable insight into causes of death.

Perhaps the knock on Tuten is a lack of charisma or personableness. He seems willing to work on that. Moreover, in discussing one particularly difficult case recently, Tuten was briefly overcome with emotion.

The man cares.

Again, we are blessed with two such men. It is a mere matter of circumstance that Tuten, at 60 and with so many years of coroner's experience - Wylds has been a standout at the Richmond County Sheriff's Office for 27 years - simply has a head start on the competition.

The best-case scenario might be to elect Tuten Tuesday to finish Mr. Sims' unexpired term - and again in November to his own term - and somehow get Wylds experience in the office for another run.

Mr. Tuten can tell you how valuable such experience can be.


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