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Q&A: Republican coroner candidates discuss priorities and qualifications

From Staff Reports

Republicans will have three candidates to choose from for coroner in the primary, scheduled for May 22, incumbent Michael Hughes, Mike Riley and Jay Webb.

Hughes is a graduate of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps School and Wheeling Jesuit University with a bachelor degree in clinical science. Hughes has served as Jessamine County Coroner since 2010.

Among his achievements, he is a member of the Jessamine County Agency for Substance Abuse, an executive committee board member of the Jessamine County Republican Party and chair of the Jessamine County Child Fatality Review Board.

Riley, 59, has an associate’s degree as a licensed practitioner nurse. He also worked as a charge nurse, LPN. He previously served as deputy coroner in Jessamine County from 2007-11.

Webb, 55, is a lifelong resident of Jessamine County. A graduate of  Jessamine County High School in 1981, he attended Eastern Kentucky University where he earned an associates degree in fire science. Webb then graduated from the Fire Academy in 1987.

Among his accomplishments are being one of the 28 selected from a group of 1,800 applicants for the Lexington Fire Department in 1986 as well as 25 years service as a firefighter/EMT with the Lexington Fire Division.  He is also a Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services certified EMTA.

JJ: What will your top priority be if elected to office?

MH: To continue my efforts of expanding awareness of the illicit drug epidemic in Jessamine County in order to reduce the number of drug overdose deaths caused by prescription narcotics, opiates and synthetic opioid use and continue to reduce the number of motor vehicle deaths due to distracted driving.

MR: My top priority would be to make sure that families who have loved ones that have passed away to put those families first. Show them I care and have compassion which they need during these hardships and also helping resolve the drug epidemic in Jessamine County.

JW:  Accountability.  I will hold myself and my entire team accountable for every action.  Honesty, trust and integrity will be the central themes of how my office and deputies operate every day.  We will be available to assist families long after our immediate work at a death scene is complete. 

JJ: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

MH: I believe that I am the best candidate for Jessamine County coroner based on my seven and a half years of experience as coroner in addition to my extensive background of over 40 years of medical experience, training, education. I have also developed a professional rapport with our medical examiners.

MR: What makes me the best candidate is I have 36 plus years of nursing experience. I have been deputy coroner for Jessamine County in the past. I also have knowledge of the job as coroner.

JW: I do not want this position for authority, the title, income, a badge, gun or for political gain.  My goal is simply to be a servant of the people of Jessamine County.  Every event in my life to this point has prepared me for this position that I feel called to seek. 

JJ: What professional/political accomplishments are you most proud of in your life?

MH: My greatest accomplishment was to serve my country in the United States Navy and Marine Corps as a corpsman (medic), where I got my first exposure to medicine and forensic science. Another accomplishment would be the privilege of being a public servant to Jessamine County for tw terms as coroner.

MR: My most proud political accomplishment was being deputy coroner of Jessamine County. My most proud professional accomplishment was becoming a nurse and helping patients with medical needs and in their time of needs.

JW: My training in IFSAC Level 2 (highest training for a firefighter) and becoming an ordained minister. Self-promotion has never been my strong suit.  This campaign for coroner has proven to be a wonderful learning experience as I meet residents and get to share my goals for the office of coroner.

JJ: What is the biggest challenge our community faces?

MH: The biggest challenge our community faces is the drug epidemic and according to statistics, most of the crime in our community is related to illicit drug transactions. I will continue to work diligently to investigate drug overdose deaths as potential crime scenes. Such investigations enhance prosecution of drug dealers.

MR: Our biggest challenge is the drug epidemic and drug overdose numbers have skyrocketed. We need to find a way to decrease these numbers, and educate residents of Jessamine County on this epidemic.

JW: Without doubt the drug epidemic has reached crisis mode in our county and state. Its pyramid effect leads to theft, violence, divorce, child abuse and sometimes death.  Unfortunately there is not a one-plan-fits-all solution but the coroner’s office should be consistently involved in the drug epidemic training and prevention programs.

JJ: How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our town?

MH: Due to the sensitive and graphic nature of our office, HIPAA laws, and confidentiality policies of the office it would not be practical to engage private residents in decision making of the coroners’ office.

MR: Make sure the residents are educated on what decision are being discussed. Making sure the community is better informed when and where community meetings are being held so they can voice their opinions for the decisions they feel passionate about.

JW: The key to involvement is communication with the public. This can and will be accomplished through multiple vehicles: face-to-face workshops, printed materials, public service announcements, and social media.  My office will maintain an open-door policy for anyone wanting to discuss the staff and/or operations of the Coroner’s office.

JJ: If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?

MH: The coroner’s office is not a financial policy making office as it is not an income producing entity. Fiscal court approves the annual budget. I have been fiscally responsible and a good steward of the funds. I would continue to remain fiscally conservative regarding the coroner’s office expenditures and budget.

MR: More shopping local to help build our revenue. Working towards decreasing the drug epidemic in return helps the jail overpopulation keeping coroner’s office under budget.

JW: Immediate financial review of every budget line. Only sound financial standards and principals will be used in managing the people’s tax money. Looking at every opportunity to reduce the annual spending budget while maximizing grant opportunities and other government programs available. Quality in-state training opportunities verses traveling out-of-state reducing expenses.

JJ: What additional comments do you have for voters in Jessamine County?

MH: I feel privileged to have served as your coroner for the past seven and a half years. I am proud to call Jessamine County my home. While this position may be just a job to some people, I believe God called me to this position as a form of ministry.

MR: I feel the coroner’s office is a very public office to our community. I’m dedicated to serving our community and being there for the residents. I plan to be the voice on the other end of the phone if you call and the shoulder to lean on when hardships come.

JW: Since I’m a political newcomer to Jessamine County, I encourage you to do your research on me and my campaign.  You can read more about me on my Facebook page, Jay Webb for Coroner. The coroner’s position is a critical office to those who unfortunately have to experience its services.