HANCOCK COUNTY — While election season proved nerve-wracking for those in contested races, Hancock County candidates who cruised toward Nov. 8 without challengers have had their eyes on planning for Jan. 1 for months.
While most running for office spent the last months knocking on doors and passing out campaign literature, the candidates with no one to run against have spent their time looking to 2017.
Making a team
County coroner-elect David Stillinger, a funeral director, has spent his time since his primary victory putting together his team of deputy coroners, which includes Chief Deputy Coroner Rudy Nylund, who has served the county since 2006; Dan Devoy, a community corrections field officer who also ran for the Republican nomination for coroner; and Dave Carver, a Greenfield resident and retired Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer who Stillinger knows through the Greenfield Rotary Club, he said.The coroner’s office is responsible for conducting death investigations and scheduling autopsies and handles an average of 100 death investigations per year.
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Stillinger’s main concerns are familiarizing himself with the office’s financial situation and coming up with a plan for a new location for autopsies to be conducted, he said.
In the past, autopsies have been done at Erlewein Mortuary, 1484 U.S. 40 West in Greenfield, but Stillinger, who owns Stillinger Family Funeral Home, said he hopes to find a more secure location, like a hospital, instead of a private business.
In past years, bodies were transported to the Marion County Coroner’s Office in downtown Indianapolis for autopsy, but Stillinger said Marion County’s case backlogs have made that an unappealing option. He said Riverview Health in Noblesville, a Hamilton County hospital, is one option he is considering.
Janice Silvey, county treasurer, has been plenty busy throughout this election cycle despite running unopposed, as she also is the Republican county chairwoman. This likely will be her last term as treasurer, she said; after this four-year term, she is required by state law to sit out four years before running again, and she does not plan to seek office again.The county treasurer is charged with collecting the taxes levied in Hancock County and investing the county’s funds, Silvey said.
Silvey’s mind is focused on the county’s upcoming transfer to a new tax system scheduled to take place in January in the treasurer’s office, she said.
The treasurer’s office hopes to select a Low Incorporated tax software system that will allow taxpayers to receive notifications of tax bills by email, Silvey said. The office’s goal is to make paying property taxes as convenient as possible, she added.
It’s been business as usual lately for county commissioner Brad Armstrong, who has served in the position for the last eight years. This is the first time in six primary and General Elections Armstrong has run uncontested — it’s been nice to be able to focus on his job instead of campaigning, he said.Hancock County is governed by a Board of Commissioners consisting of three elected officials who are responsible for the county’s day-to-day business, including enacting ordinances, approving purchases and overseeing county boards.
For Armstrong, the biggest concerns facing the county are its heroin problem and overcrowded jail, he said.
Hancock County law enforcement officials have worked to increase their force for investigating drug cases, with leaders citing an uptick in overdose deaths — a jump from 14 deaths in 2012 to 21 deaths in 2015 — as one reason for the effort.
Having a detective dedicated to narcotics investigations has more than tripled the number of drug-dealing cases filed annually, statistics from the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office show; just 15 drug-dealing cases were filed in 2012 compared to 49 filed in 2015.
Through 2016, swelling jail numbers have caused controversy as officials debate how to best alleviate the problem. In September, jail officials began transferring low-level offenders sentenced to jail time to Daviess County’s jail facility.
Elected officials will be sworn in in late December; they take office Jan. 1.