Two candidates are running to be Berks County coroner.
The coroner investigates deaths independent of the police. The office also rules on the cause and manner of sudden, unexplained or unnatural deaths as well as natural deaths that occur outside the presence of medical officials.
Democrat Jonn Hollenbach and Republican John Fielding are competing for the position.
The coroner serves a four-year term and receives an annual salary of $83,971.
We asked the candidates to respond to two questions:
Question 1: What are the qualities that an effective coroner must possess?
Question 2: Why should voters choose you over your opponent?
Jonn Hollenbach, 50, Exeter Township.
Background: Hollenbach has worked in the Berks County coroner’s office for 16 years. He began his tenure in the office as a deputy coroner and worked his way up the ranks to become the chief deputy coroner. When longtime Coroner Dennis Hess retired in July, he was appointed to serve the remainder of the term.
Response 1: An effective coroner fulfills the duties of the office as prescribed by law, ensuring that deaths under the coroner’s jurisdiction are investigated competently and with fiscal restraint.
The coroner must possess not only competence but also a compassionate presence, especially
when delivering the worst news a loved one will ever hear. Commitment and a passion to serve in a field that daily intersects with death and tragedy is of utmost importance. Knowledge of advanced investigative techniques, critical thinking skills, a dedicated staff, along with strong interpersonal skills are vital as the coroner works closely with medical staff, law enforcement, and the families of the deceased.
As the department head, a coroner must also be a skilled, experienced leader. As with any public service profession, integrity and responsibility are crucial.
Response 2: I am the only candidate that is state certified. I also hold national certification from the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators recognizing the highest standards of practice.
I have been employed in the coroner’s office for 17 years, and I have the education, experience and attitude to continue running and improving this important office. As acting coroner, I have worked hard to help build an office that is well-regarded in the community. It is my job to ensure that deaths are investigated by competent and trained personnel and to monitor community death trends in order to educate others and improve the lives and longevity of the community.
Because of my experience, I am endorsed by all three local FOP lodges, the State FOP, Berks County Funeral Directors and several unions. My priority as a public servant is to use my expertise to benefit the families of Berks County.
John Fielding, 67, Mount Penn.
Background: Fielding is a private practice attorney who formerly worked in the Berks County public defender’s office. Before he went to law school, he worked in management for security and exterminating companies. He currently serves on the Mount Penn Borough Council and is a former Antietam School Board member.
Response 1: The coroner position is an administrative and management position. Therefore, he or she must have the management skills to run a taxpayer-supported office efficiently.
Further, the coroner must be a leader and coach who can build an effective team of skilled and trained deputy coroners and staff through fostering a spirit of comradeship to carry out the tasks of determining cause and manner of death in cooperation with other government agencies.
The coroner should also be a person of compassion with training in the area of counseling those who, through the death of a loved one, are experiencing grief and anguish.
Response 2: An effective deputy coroner is not necessarily an effective manager of deputy coroners because the skill set required for management is different from field work. I am the only candidate with management and leadership experience in my employment before I became an attorney and evaluated evidence for 28 years.
My opponent does not possess the leadership skills required to build an effective team or to foster comradeship. Additionally, the coroner’s office must cooperate with, but operate independently of, law enforcement. I understand this. My opponent, in his personal conduct, has allowed himself to be compromised in this area.
Source: Berkshire mont