EDITORIAL: Powis for coroner

TWO CANDIDATES WITH VERY DIFFERENT sets of credentials are running against each other for one of the open positions as county coroner. Bernadette Powis is on the Democratic, Working Families and Women’s Equality lines. Carmen Martino is running on the Republican and Conservative party.

Mr. Martino, 48, a former state trooper and investigator, was appointed a coroner earlier this year by the county Board of Supervisors following the sudden resignation of coroner Dr. Andrea Coleman, a Democrat elected last year.

Ms. Powis, 70, is registered nurse and nurse practitioner and certified psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner.

Mr. Martino said in a candidate profile published in last week’s issue that his career in law enforcement had prepared him for being coroner because it requires an investigative background and that the post involves “minimal medical experience.”

That’s one way to look at the job. But there is an equally valid approach to the position of coroner that acknowledges the paperwork and research but also emphasizes the human dimension of dealing with the aftermath of an unattended death.

A coroner is not a medical examiner. But Ms. Powis brings more to the position than her career in nursing and medicine. As a nurse practitioner she also has a certification in psychiatric and mental health care. She understands that in cases of unattended death the coroner becomes “the eyes and ears of the medical examiner,” who is not at the death scene but will need critical information from it. She will know what needs to be reported not only to make meet official requirements but also to explain what is known to the families of the deceased.

She brings to this task both competence and compassion. Bernadette Powis should be elected a Columbia County coroner.

Voters take note: Columbia County has three coroner positions. One is filled by incumbent James Bertram, a former sheriff, another will be filled by funeral director Mike Blasl, who is running unopposed on the November 6 ballot. The third will be filled by the winner of the race between Carmen Martino and Bernadette Powis.

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