The farther down the ballot voters see on Nov. 6, the more difficult it can be to choose the best candidate. This is especially true for elected officials who make few, if any, policies and receive little public attention.
When voting for purely administrative offices such as county coroner and treasurer, the decision should be based not on party affiliation or ideology but purely on qualifications. By that measurement, Dr. Craig Nelson is the clear choice for coroner, while incumbent Treasurer Sue Orth has earned a second term.
Coroners are required to seek to determine the cause and manner of violent and unexplained deaths. Unlike some other elected law enforcement positions, coroner has no special requirement to hold the office other than receiving death investigation training within six months of taking office. Even if the coroner is a physician, autopsies are performed by forensic pathologists.
Nelson, 69, has already served as a deputy coroner for nine years, so he is well-acquainted with the office, its functions and its operations. He is a certified death investigator. He is not a physician, but he is a dentist and has been trained in handling dental evidence. Nelson has been specifically trained to perform the role as coroner.
His opponent, Norman Knuth, 60, is a funeral director, not an uncommon occupation among Indiana coroners. He worked as a deputy coroner in 2003 in Clay County, where had worked as a funeral director. He unsuccessfully ran for coroner in 1996.
The winner will succeed Dr. Jon Brandenberger, who is prohibited by term limits from running a third consecutive time.
The key job of the treasurer is to bill and collect county taxes, and to make sure the money is held in secure accounts. In past years, a key duty of treasurers was to obtain the best interest rate possible for short-term investments, but because interest rates for such accounts have fallen to near zero, there is less emphasis on that duty.
Incumbent Sue Orth, 61, has earned a second term. Her greatest accomplishment has been development of a website to view and pay property taxes, a project she began while serving as chief deputy treasurer. In addition to offering a wealth of information to homeowners and prospective home buyers, the site has given real estate professionals an easy, free way to obtain tax information on a variety of properties without calling the treasurers office.
The convenience of the technology has allowed Orth to reduce the number of employees in her office.
Her opponent, Scott Williams, 47, is a local barber and entrepreneur making his first run for elected office. He previously served as treasurer of a non-profit organization and handles the finances for his business. He finds no specific fault with Orth but knew she was elected four years ago without opposition and said he wanted to give voters a choice.
I truly believe, in American politics, you need a choice, he said.
Coming Friday: U.S. representative