Newcomer receives top votes

GREENFIELD — He’d just about given up. It was late. He was tired. After hours of waiting at the Hancock County Courthouse Annex to hear the results of Tuesday’s primary election for county coroner, David Stillinger packed up and headed home just before midnight.

A half hour later, his phone pinged. The first congratulatory message from a friend.

He won.

Stillinger, a local funeral home director, secured the Republican nomination for Hancock County Coroner Tuesday with 5,416 votes, according to the Hancock County Election Office.

Vote totals were released around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday after a host of problems delayed results for all other local elections. The coroner’s race was the only local campaign not affected by a computer glitch that left more than 2,000 ballots in flux after votes were cast Tuesday.

The coroner race pitted Stillinger against Chief Deputy Coroner Rudy Nylund, as well as former party favorites Dan Devoy and Joe Fortner.

Stillinger handily defeated the competition.

Fortner placed second in the four-way race with 4,021 votes, followed by Nylund with 3,201 votes and Devoy with 2,325 votes. No Democrats filed in time for their names to be included on the primary ballot.

As his fellow candidates touted longtime ties to local law enforcement and prior experience with the coroner’s office, Stillinger painted himself the new face that would bring reform to an office he said has lacked solid leadership in recent years.

Seeking political office for the first time, Stillinger ran his race on the promise to be a more trustworthy and visible coroner than the office has seen from its two most recent elected coroners, both of whom were arrested during their terms. He promised to mend the community’s trust in the office and bring structure to its budget.

Stillinger is the owner and funeral director of Stillinger Family Funeral Home-Pasco Chapel in Greenfield and a state-certified Medicolegal Death Investigator. He worked briefly as a deputy coroner in 2008 and served on the Wilkinson Volunteer Fire Department.

Throughout his campaign, he stressed the need for compassionate care for families as a valuable trait he brought to the race; he said he believed his experience working with mourning families outweighed the other candidates’ law enforcement backgrounds.

Nylund served as deputy coroner for 10 years in addition to working as a full-time assistant fire chief for Buck Creek Township Fire Department, giving him both the investigative and medical know-how run the office well, he said.

Devoy has more than 17 years of experience within local law enforcement, including about eight years of past work in the coroner’s office. He currently works as a field officer for the county’s community corrections facility.

Fortner is a retired Greenfield Fire Department fire chief, former police officer and currently works as EMS coordinator for Hancock Regional Hospital. He worked in the coroner’s office in the late 1980s and split votes with Devoy a three-way race for the seat in November 2012, when Democrat Crystel Myers won.

So far, Stillinger is unopposed for November’s general election.

The Democratic and Libertarian parties have until June 30 to pick candidates to fill that vacancy on the fall ballot. Independent candidates have until June 30 to declare their intent to run.

Vote totals

Hancock County Coroner

David Stillinger: 5,416

Joe Fortner: 4,021

Rudy Nylund: 3,201

Dan Devoy: 2,325

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.