Roberts beats Rowland for Bingham coroner and could take office earlier than expected
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BLACKFOOT — After a long night of watching votes slowly roll in, Jimmy Roberts was informed Wednesday morning that current Bingham County coroner Nick Hirschi has announced his resignation.
The current chief deputy coroner, Roberts won the Republican primary Tuesday, receiving 4,965 votes to competitor Lisa Rowland’s 1,861.
With no general election challenger — barring a write-in candidate — Roberts will officially be named the next coroner in Bingham County in January. But that move may come quicker than he originally thought.
Hirschi’s retirement leaves Roberts as the only person in Bingham County capable of signing death certificates, leaving him in charge until an interim coroner is selected.
“I would say that I’m steering the ship, at the moment,” he told EastIdahoNews.com. “That’s really expedited how things are going to work.”
Hirschi, an Idaho Falls firefighter and father of five, told EastIdahoNews.com that his notice of resignation was filed about a month ago.
“There’s a lot going on in my life right now,” he said, “I just feel like I need to take a step back right now and focus on me and my family.”
According to Republican Central Committee Bingham County Chair Dan Cravens, the committee has until June 10 to provide the Bingham County commissioners with party-approved candidates. While the hope was to have those potential candidates selected much sooner, Cravens said, the election and changes within the committee have made the selection process difficult.
Still, he continued, a new interim coroner will be selected by mid-June.
The selection process begins with applications — anyone interested in the position can send their resume to email@example.com. From the applicants, the committee will select the top three candidates. And from those candidates, the Bingham County commissioners will select the new interim coroner.
Thus far, the only applicant is Roberts, Cravens said.
As Hirschi told EastIdahoNews.com, when asked to opine on his replacement, he told Cravens that the victor of the primary should be chosen as his replacement.
Roberts agreed, saying that selecting an interim coroner who was not elected by the electorate would be “extremely odd.”
Either way, however, barring unforeseen circumstances, Roberts will be named the coroner within the next seven months.
“Once I do take office, whether it’s now or whether it’s next January, the first thing that really needs to happen within the coroner’s office is we need to bring the investigative staff up to speed and up to a standard that we know when someone goes out to a scene, they’re actually doing a complete and comprehensive investigation,” he said.
His ideal system or preparation would look similar to that of most law enforcement agencies. After receiving their training and certifications, an investigator would then undergo a field training period, when they would shadow an experienced investigator “for weeks, if not months” before receiving the go-ahead to conduct investigations alone.
As Roberts explained, training and transparency are the top priorities for the Bingham County Coroner’s office.
Along with adding a much more labor-intensive training process, Roberts wants to provide more details to the public about the work his office handles.
“I think that transparency, and educating the citizens — I think that’s just smart,” he said. “The more educated and knowledgeable citizens we have, the more engaged they can be in making decisions about things that they really need to be involved in making decisions about.”
There is a “huge need” for members of the public to be informed about the duties performed by public servants and elected officials, Roberts concluded.
Be it Roberts or another candidate, when an interim coroner is named they will be the third Bingham County coroner in less than four years, Cravens said. Mike Gardner, who won the 2018 election, resigned less than three months into his term and was replaced in the interim by Hirschi.