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Kennedy earns re-election as Mahoning Co. coroner

Saturday, October 8, 2016

For more than two decades, Dr. David Kennedy has served capably as Mahoning County coroner. Throughout that tenure, he has amassed a record of public service that demonstrates commitments to skillful operation of the office and of transparency and fiscal responsibility to the tax-paying public.

As such, the Democrat has earned the trust of county voters. We confidently endorse his re-election.

Though the office of the county coroner remains relatively low in public visibility, its mission ranks high in public importance.

The office plays an integral role in the criminal justice system taking on the responsibility of investigating the cause of any death resulting from criminal or violent means, accident or other situations in which deaths appear to be suspicious or unusual.

In his 22 years in the coroner’s office, Dr. Kennedy has run a tight ship. His yearly budget of about $800,000 and his staff of seven have remained relatively stable.

Dr. Kennedy also has earned a reputation for transparency to the public. He and his staff have had a cooperative and open working relationship with this newspaper, for example, in generally supplying information in a timely fashion.

“Anything that is public record should be released,” he told the Editorial Board.

HEROIN IMPACT

Recent years have brought an upswing in autopsies and investigations stemming from the ongoing heroin and opiate epidemic plaguing the county. The office also has witnessed a surge in autopsies as prosecutors more aggressively push for criminal charges against the victims’ suppliers.

Another challenge of which Dr. Kennedy has been in the forefront has been the outdated and sometimes malodorous county morgue in the Oakhill Renaissance Place county office building.

In his interview with members of The Vindicator Editorial Board last month, Dr. Kennedy noted that the morgue, once a part of the former South Side Medical Center, has not been substantially renovated or updated since 1970. Over those 46 years, the science of forensic pathology has advanced light years.

Ventilation defects in the morgue have led to scents of decaying bodies wafting into other areas of the complex.

Dr. Kennedy is working with county commissioners on options to remedy that problem. They range from a ventilation retrofitting of the current facility, to construction of a new freestanding county morgue, to collaborating with neighboring counties to build one consolidated state-of-the-art morgue.

Kennedy’s knowledge of coroner operations and his record of fiscal responsibility will enable him to continue to serve as a key adviser to this long-term project.

Kennedy’s experience and exemplary commitment to cost-effective management of the office will serve the county well for the coming four years.

Challenging Dr. Kennedy in the race is Republican John Vargo. He chose not to attend an interview session with The Vindicator Editorial Board and is thereby ineligible for endorsement consideration.