Chief deputy coroner, Lisa Rowland facing off in primary for Bingham County coroner
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Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Sunday, May 8. It is being republished to include Lisa Rowland’s responses.
BLACKFOOT — Nick Hirschi, who was chosen to fill in as Bingham County Coroner in 2019, will not run for election to the office. Instead, current chief deputy coroner Jimmy Roberts will face Lisa Rowland in the Republican primary.
EastIdahoNews.com sent the same eight questions to both candidates. Their answers below were required to be 250 words or less.
The primary election is on May 17. The general election is on Nov. 8.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
ROBERTS: I was built in Blackfoot in 1966. I was adopted as an infant and grew up on the east coast, however. I discovered my biological family in Blackfoot in 1990 and spent the next 29 years traveling to Bingham County several times each year to work with my family and ultimately returning to live here full time in 2019.
My father’s family homesteaded in the Rose and Wapello areas at the end of the 19th century running cattle. My mother’s grandfather was Doc Mitchell, one of the early doctors who served Blackfoot at the turn of the twentieth century.
My wife and I have 4 children between us and 6 grandchildren with our youngest daughter living here and working in Blackfoot.
Although I spent the majority of my career on Cape Cod, I was able to also work in many large cities yearning to increase my knowledge and experience. I have attended several schools along the way, among them are; Cape Cod Community College, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, St Louis School of Medicine, and currently, North Dakota University. I have spent my entire adult life as a public servant functioning as a Paramedic, Firefighter, U.S. Navy Reserve as a Corpsman assigned to the U.S.M.C.
Although I have never held elected office, I have held the public trust as the supervisor of an 80-member department that responded to over 7,500 calls for serve each year managing and maintaining response readiness for fire, advanced life support EMS, and water rescue capabilities.
ROWLAND: I am a lifelong resident of Idaho. I have been married for 32 years and have two adult children and three grandchildren. I have worked in Law Enforcement and Investigations for 35 years. I was the first female State Trooper in Region 5 (eastern Idaho) in 1992. As a Detective for Bingham County Sheriff’s Office became an expert on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse cases. In this capacity, I was heavily involved in determining the cause and manner of death in many investigations and worked closely with other agencies and coroners to thoroughly handle each case to closure. I retired in February 2022 from Idaho Industrial Commission as a Compliance Investigator.
I have an Associate Degree in Law Enforcement from the Collage of Southern Idaho and over 4000 hours of Law Enforcement training. I have attended training and certifications on Investigation, Interrogations, Cause of injury and death. I have investigated hundreds of death reports including car crashes, homicides, infant deaths, and unattended deaths.
I have served or am currently serving on the following boards: Bingham County Board of Community Guardians, Bingham Crisis Center, Blackfoot Animal Shelter and Rescue, Blackfoot Soroptimist Women’s Service Club, and Lillian Vallely Youth Foundation.
Active in the Bingham County Republican Central Committee for 20 years serving as the Treasurer and Secretary.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
ROWLAND: Becoming an Idaho State Police Trooper, an accomplishment that was very rare for women in law enforcement at that time. I am proud of the service I have provided to my community as I have worked every day to serve and protect them through law enforcement avenues.
ROBERTS: My wife and my family are what I hold deep pride in. We have two sons and two daughters and they are each unique and amazing in their respective ambitions and work. Of course, with that pride and joy is our grandchildren. Although we are not as close in proximity as we would like to be with them all on the east coast, we are grateful that technology allows us to Facetime several times a week and it’s always wonderful to have them come visit our wee ranchette and all our animals.
As to one of the proudest moments of my career, I would say that there are many but most among them by always trying to be part of the solution in whatever situation I find myself. I am very proud to be currently serving as the Chief Deputy Coroner for Bingham County.
Working the majority of my career with the Yarmouth Fire Department on Cape Cod as the EMS and Fire Training Supervisor I oversaw all operational aspects of the department and maintained training standards as well as fiscal responsibility never going over budget in my 8-year tenure in that position. I also successfully secured grant funding for several consecutive years to assist our community in response to the opioid crisis with enhanced training for first responders, mental health initiatives, and community outreach.
Why are you a member of the Republican / Democrat / Independent / Other party? Briefly explain your political platform.
ROBERTS: I am proud member of the Republican party because I believe this party holds and maintains the values I most relate to. I believe in fiscal responsibility and getting the most value for efforts applied as well as family values that have been the cornerstone of our American way of life.
My goal is to raise the professionalism expertise of the Bingham County Coroner’s Office into the 21st century by attaining and maintaining the national standards set forth by the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, so that each and every citizen of our community can rest assure that when a loved one dies they will have the best level of death investigation conducted on their behalf.
ROWLAND: I am a lifelong Republican. I have always believed in and follow conservative values and the Republican Party platform.
Please explain the role and responsibilities of the position you are running for?
ROWLAND: The main role of the Coroner, in the event of a death, is to determine the time, manner, and what caused the death, identify the deceased, preserve, observe and record any evidence, work closely with law enforcement if an investigation is underway, keep accurate records and processes, and in many cases the Coroner will notify family members of the death. The Coroner will make arrangements to have the body taken to a certified pathologist to complete the death investigation process.
I believe the Coroner has to have compassion for both the body and the family and I bring a great value to that position as a woman and a mother, but also as an experienced investigator with extensive knowledge of criminal cases and law enforcement procedures.
ROBERTS: The county Coroner is responsible for responding to and investigating every death that occurs within the county as the result of violence, whether by homicide, accident or suicide; that may have occurred under suspicious circumstances; death of a stillborn child without a known medical disease to account for the stillbirth; death of anyone under the age of 18 unless under a physicians care and the death was expected due to natural causes; any unexpected death of an individual not attended by a physician; any death of an individual who is admitted to a hospital unresponsive and does not regain consciousness prior to their demise; and any death where the cause of death is undetermined.
The coroner is responsible for making comprehensive and adequate examinations of decedents and ordering and attending autopsies when necessary to determine cause of death; working closely with the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement when needed as well as providing regular detailed reports to the county commissioners as to the operations of the office and compile accurate records of all death investigations conducted within the county. Identifying and notifying legal next of kin of a decedent and helping that family traverse the terrain of the post-death process, ensuring emotional support is in place, funeral homes are contacted and often communicating with insurance companies and providing follow up regarding time manner and cause of death as well as reviewing autopsy and toxicology results and providing a death certificate in a timely manner.
What are the greatest challenges facing your county
ROBERTS: In regards to the office of the Coroner in Bingham County, the greatest challenges are:
1. Bringing the office’s investigative standards up to the current national standards, attaining International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiner’s office certification and providing adequate training and compensation to deputies who are expected to meet those standards
2. Preparing our office infrastructure to meet the demands of not only the current county population but the projected increase in population reflective of the growth we will continue to experience.
3. Bringing the office up to the IACME certification level so our county will be eligible for grant funding which in turn will prevent our citizens from baring the financial burden of the task. The disparity in coroner systems around the country are well known but with focus and determination we can and will make sure our citizens have the best services available to their families.
ROWLAND: Bingham County is facing high drug overdoses and drug use in general of both legal and illegal drugs. This fact will unfortunately result in more deaths and it will be imperative that the county has a Coroner who has knowledge of drug deaths and how to identify them.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
ROWLAND: As a State Trooper and a Detective, I represented all the people of Bingham County no matter what their political views are, and I would continue to do that as the Coroner.
ROBERTS: My representation of this county’s constituents is and will be unbiased as the position of Coroner must have no such prejudice in regards to serves rendered. My conservative values and principles will be reflected in my fiscal responsibilities with the taxpayer dollars and how the office is administered for the good of all of our citizens.
How can you encourage or improve relationships with cities and other municipal or educational entities within your jurisdiction?
ROBERTS: As the current Chief Deputy Coroner, I already engage in interagency trainings providing vital information to our county’s law enforcement officers, fire and EMS providers on how to respond to death scenes and will continue that ongoing effort.
I have had a tremendous amount of experience working at local, regional, state and national levels in the past to improve standards and data collection as a fire and EMS provider and am currently a member of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners Ethics Committee and have working relationships with members of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Board of Directors for the National Homicide Investigators Association, Members of the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Organization of Scientific Area Committee for Forensic Science; Medicolegal Death Investigation sub-committee members.
I will also create engagement with the community to address suicide prevention as well as increase access to mental health and grief resources to our citizens.
Another goal is to offer internships to students in death investigation following the model that the Ada County Coroner has instituted. By offering insight into a well-run death investigation office, we can foster our youth to become the investigators of the future and serve this vital function in their own community. The coroner’s office is an integral piece of the public health system and through quality medicolegal investigation of death can provide vital health information to families that may be susceptible to certain diseases or genetic abnormalities, and identify potential threats to public health.
ROWLAND: I have worked with all the agencies in Bingham County and have a great working relationship with all of them, including the funeral homes in Bingham County. I have spent many years building relationships based on trust and mutual respect.
What are your views on local and state media organizations. As an elected official how would you work with the media to help inform the public?
ROWLAND: An unbiased and honest media is a key element of the 1st Amendment and they play an instrumental part in the public square of being a mouthpiece and an educator of current events, issues, and opinions. In most cases, the county or law enforcement will issue a statement crafted by a public information officer. I will respect that boundary and will rarely need to have contact with media outlets.
ROBERTS: Currently, our citizens have information coming at them from so many different angles, be it social media, national and international news sources. I believe it is more important than ever to foster and maintain a positive, transparent working relationship with local and state media within the legal parameters of the office.
With the sensitive nature of death investigation, it is important to release information as appropriate to respect the families of the decedents and public safety. That being said, I see local and state news media as an incredibly important piece to a free society. Without local journalists to keep track of events important within our county, region and state we risk having less than honorable or ethical acts and systems infect our society and lead us to greater levels of division instead of unity.