Candidates for Union County coroner emphasized their experience for the office at a forum Tuesday night.
The Union County NAACP Chapter and the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce held a public candidate forum Tuesday night, with candidates for Union County coroner, Union County clerk, Union County judge and El Dorado mayor appearing to answer questions and talk about their platforms.
Each set of candidates took the stage and drew lots to decide who would speak first. They each gave opening statements, which were followed by a question and answer portion. Audience members were able to submit questions for the candidates, which were asked by the moderator. The candidates were then able to give some last closing statements before the forum moved on to the next set of candidates.
Coroner candidates Martavious Carrigan, a Democrat, and Stormey Primm, Republican, took the stage first. Carrigan, who was determined to go first, emphasized his experience in the coroner’s office, saying he currently serves as chief deputy coroner. Primm talked about his experience in the coroner’s office and medical field, saying he has been a paramedic in Union County for 10 years and was a deputy coroner for over four years.
Carrigan was selected to run as the Democratic nominee after the sudden death of incumbent coroner Curtis Butterfield, who was running for re-election.
When asked what the qualifications for a coroner are, Carrigan said there are not any legal requirements, but that the state of Arkansas is currently working to strengthen the requirements one must meet to become a coroner. Primm clarified, saying one must be at least 18 years old, not a felon and reside in the county they’re running in to be a coroner, noting he meets all qualifications.
The two were then asked what experience they have that qualifies them to be Union County’s coroner. Carrigan again highlighted his role as chief deputy coroner, as well as his certification as a medicolegal death investigator. He also works at a local funeral home, he said.
“Since Mr. Butterfield passed, throughout the state, different coroners have gotten with me and medical examiners have come and shown me different things,” Carrigan said.
Primm again pointed out his work as a paramedic and a deputy coroner. He said he also has an associate's degree in emergency medical science and that earlier this week, he also became a certified legal death investigator.
“I have committed myself, since the age of 19, to serving this county, and all I’m asking for is four years to see what I can do as a leader of this office. And if you don’t like it after those four years, we can see about a different road, but I have full confidence in myself that I can lead this office,” Primm said.
Both were asked whether they would be full or part-time coroners. Carrigan said simply that he would serve as a full-time coroner. Primm agreed, saying the office would require him to be on call 24/7/365.
“On average, there are 500 calls a year,” Primm said. “I will be committed to serving as your coroner and giving it 100 percent.”
They were then asked how important documentation was in the office of the coroner.
“There’s two important documents that we have in life," Carrigan said. "One is the birth certificate and the second is the death [certificate]. And the death certificate is very important and the cause of death is very important to investigate, because … benefits can be given to that family or taken away from that family, just by a simple cause of death.”
“Our reports are very crucial, because typically a case isn’t going to go to court a couple weeks later. Typically, a case is going to court months, years after – it may even be after we’re out of office. Somebody’s going to have to recall that case and to be able to recall every little detail that you saw, and you need to be able to provide your eyes through your writing,” Primm said, adding that he has written thousands of reports in his time as a paramedic and working in the coroner’s office. “The saying is, if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen. Things can’t go without saying because it could greatly affect the outcome for a family, and that’s what we’re here for, is to get closure for those families.”
The candidates were next asked whether a coroner should have a good working relationship with law enforcement and, if they were elected, whether they would try to form a good relationship with local law enforcement.
“The coroner can help law enforcement … break or make a case,” Carrigan said, adding that he would work with law enforcement if elected and that the state of Arkansas is working to help foster better relationships between law enforcement and coroners across the state. “They’re going to be of one accord for the people of this state and the people in their communities.”
Primm said the Arkansas Coroner’s Association is currently working to give coroners and law enforcement officers simultaneous training.
“Law enforcement and [the] coroner’s office have to work together. But, each also has to independently gather their own report and collaborate those reports together,” Primm said.
The final question for the candidates was from the audience. They were asked what they would do to enhance the office of the coroner.
“I’m going to make sure all the deputies get the certified training, all the training that I received,” Carrigan said.
Primm agreed, saying before any of his deputies could make a call alone, he would ensure they had followed the same investigative process he uses when investigating a death.
Both candidates concluded with a plea for votes.
“I just ask that each of you come out to the polls on Nov. 6 … I just ask for your vote,” Carrigan said.
“The main thing any of us in this room can ask for is voter turnout … Please take a few minutes to come vote,” Primm said.
Carrigan and Primm will face off in the general election on Nov. 6. For more information about the coroner’s race, check the Oct. 28 edition of the El Dorado News-Times.
Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.