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6/7/2018 Custer County’s only contested primary race is for coroner
The Coroner’s Office is the highest law enforcement position in Custer County and is the only position that can arrest the Sheriff according to state statutes; and on Tuesday, June 26 during the primary election, voters will choose between two candidates that are trying to take the Republican spot on the November Ballot. Mailed ballots are being sent this week. Art Nordyke, Incumbent Coroner Art Nordyke has been the Custer County Coroner since 1988 and has been key in taking the Coroner’s from an untrained position into a highly trained position. “When I was elected 30 years ago there was no training for Coroners in the State of Colorado, even in big cities the office had been neglected by the counties,” Nordyke recalled. However, the Coroner’s Office is a position that carries commitment that has the power to start a murder investigation, influence life insurance policies that can run into the millions and is the first person to meet grieved relatives of the deceased. “It is a fascinating and humbling service to be Coroner and the first priority for me is to show respect for the dead, for as Coroner, I make sure the rights of the individual are protected, even in death.” The Coroner is one of those elected positions that fly under the radar of most election cycles, but it is perhaps the most important office in law enforcement. The Coroner is independent from the Sheriff, a check and balance on the powers of the police in a county. “The Coroner works under the District Attorney’s Office, not the Sheriff.” It is Nordyke’s job to investigate the cause of death and direct the Sheriff if the death is criminal or not.” Nordyke was a key member in the creation of the Colorado Coroner’s Association, a group that banded together to make up for the lack of State training and funding for the coroner’s. “I was one of the board members of the Association and we create training programs to educate the office and make it an asset to law enforcement.” “In a small county, it is important to show respect for the family and for the deceased, to bring justice if needed, and to be frugal with the limited resources,” Nordyke concluded. Nordyke is a successful business owner and is also a long time Westcliffe Town Trustee. Coroner Candidate Brad Baltzly “I am fascinated by the investigation process of the Coroner’s office; it is an opportunity to serve my community and provide a meaningful service to those in need,” explained Brad Baltzly who is running against the long-serving Art Nordyke. “I will bring new energy to the office and get more use out of the funds that the citizens of the county pay in taxes.” For Baltzly, running a successful business has never been enough, and since moving to the Valley in 1994, he has proven time and again to offer his time and talents to the public. “I served for five years as a deputy Coroner under Nordyke and grew to enjoy the service. It’s not an easy job, but once I discovered I could not only handle the job, that I could thrive, I had to learn all I could.” Baltzly spent years training, traveling, and learning all he could about investigations and the other duties of the Coroner’s Office. “What I offer the citizens of Custer County is new ways to make the finite resources of the Coroner’s office go further.” Examples are a better vehicle for the Coroner. “Right now, the Coroner only has a short bed pickup truck and the logistics of loading a body without a gurney into a five-foot truck bed is not a respectful method of defending the rights of the deceased.” Baltzly was polite but direct. “There are ways to get proper equipment without raising the budget, and it needs to happen now because the Office of Coroner has to stand on its own, it cannot be engaging a stretched EMS for transporting bodies, and most funeral homes are hours away. The short-bed truck has lots of logistical problems.” The problems of heat, open air, lack of cooling are easy but unpleasant to imagine. “We need to bring the office into the twenty-first century, to become an investigative asset to law enforcement, to have the official stand on his own. Those types of projects take energy, new energy to accomplish,” Baltzly concluded. Baltzly also served for 11 years on the Custer County Sheriff’s Posse. – Jordan Hedberg