Candidates square off for Armstrong coroner race
By Brigid Beatty
Published: Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
With Election Day less than a month away, two candidates with vastly different professional backgrounds are vying for the position of Armstrong County coroner.
The race is between Republican candidate Brian Myers, a certified Armstrong County deputy coroner, and Democratic candidate Roy Morrison, a salesman with a background in AIDS/HIV activism.
The county coroner is responsible for investigating facts surrounding all deaths in the county and must determine whether an autopsy or inquest is required.
Myers, 34, of Rural Valley is a funeral director at Carson Boyer Funeral Home in Rural Valley, has been a deputy coroner for the past four years and is a member of the Pennsylvania Coroner's Association. He has been endorsed by County Coroner Bob Bower and by former Coroner Bob Welch. He has received endorsements from forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht, the Fraternal Order of Police (Allegheny Valley Lodge 39 and Brady Paul Memorial Lodge 54), from the Armstrong Police Association, United Steelworkers, Local 158, and local funeral directors.
Myers said he has the qualifications, certifications and experience needed for the job and has a good rapport with first responders, local and state police, the district attorney's office, the sheriff's office and ACMH Hospital medical staff.
“We all work very well as a team, which helps everything run efficiently,” he said, adding that he was grateful to those who have shown support throughout his campaign.
Myers said his background has given him plenty of experience dealing with grieving families.
“(The Coroner's job) requires you to do everything in an expeditious manner, to get all the facts right and explain everything to family members with integrity, respect and compassion,” he said.
If elected, Myers plans to work within the budget and with other agencies to perhaps expand drug education in schools.
Prescription drug abuse is one of the leading causes of death in the county, he said.
Morrison, 54, of Kiskiminetas, Myers' opponent in the race, is a salesman for Bathfitter, a chairman of the Kiskiminetas Township Planning Committee and an elected member of the Armstrong County Democratic Committee.
Morrison said he does not have any official endorsements.
He has yet to take the 35-hour course for the PSCA Certification offered after the November election.
However, he believes his life experience, his position on the board of the AIDS Coalition of Pittsburgh and 15 years spent working as an HIV/AIDS activist have given him enough background to run for county coroner.
Morrison said he has first-hand experience dealing with the deaths of loved ones — deaths resulting from tragic accidents and terminal illnesses.
“You have to be prepared for people to fall apart and have the words to keep them going,” he said.
He acknowledged that investigating fatal scenes will not be easy but that “somebody needs to do the job.”
And although he admitted he has not witnessed an autopsy — unlike Myers, who said he witnessed more than 500 — Morrison said he has participated in butchering and slaughtering livestock.
“I've dealt with bloody situations,” he said, noting that his father was a butcher by trade.
Morrison differs in opinion with Myers on the primary cause of death in the county, citing fatal car crashes as the number one cause of death, followed by drug overdose/suicide and medical complications resulting from poor health care coverage.
Morrison, who said he believes guns have a place when it comes to personal protection and hunting, thinks there should be some gun restrictions.
“I don't think guns should be everywhere, especially in parks where children are,” he said, adding that if a gun gets into the wrong hands, “we'll have to deal with it then.”
He was critical of Myers for handing out campaign fliers, resembling targets, at area gun drawings.
Myers, who was attending a mass fatality training at the Medical Examiners Office in Allegheny County on Wednesday, said the fliers were relevant to sportsmen and sportswomen and are inexpensive when it comes to keeping within a budget.
“People take them like crazy,” Myers said.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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