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Five vying to fulfill coroner's term

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GREENFIELD — Monday night, the Hancock County Republican party will appoint a replacement for former Coroner Tamara Vangundy.

With five people expressing interest in the position so far and 43 precinct committee officials eligible to cast votes, it may take multiple ballots to determine a winner.

The deadline to apply is Friday. The winner will be coroner for the rest of the year.

The position has been vacant since Aug. 22, when Vangundy accepted a plea agreement in her drunken-driving case. The terms of that deal prohibit her from holding the office or running for re-election as she had planned.

The five candidates who will vie for the position are Rudy Nylund, who was Vangundy’s deputy and has overseen the office since her departure; former deputy coroners Dan Devoy and Joe Fortner, who are on the Nov. 6 ballot; Crystel Myers, a Democrat who’s also running this fall; and David McWhorter, who has a background in running funeral homes.

Nylund, 42, of Wilkinson, works as a firefighter and paramedic for Buck Creek Township Fire Department, where he also serves as assistant fire chief.

Nylund said while he is not interested in holding the elected office for the next four years, he would be happy to fulfill Vangundy’s responsibilities for the last few months of the year.

“My goal is to carry on the role and services of the coroner’s office and let it have a good transition in November for the elected coroner that will be coming on for 2013,” he said, adding that he has considered running for the office in the future. “I’m very content, finishing out the year, and I hope to work as a deputy with whoever else might get hired on.”

Devoy, Fortner and Myers have more long-term goals in mind. Each of the fall candidates is running in the caucus in hopes of getting a jump start on running the office.

Devoy, a Republican who filed to run as an independent after Vangundy’s arrest, is a field officer for Hancock County Community Corrections. He worked for seven years as a deputy coroner and served one year as the interim coroner after former Coroner John Jester, Vangundy’s brother, became police chief in 2008 and vacated the office.

Devoy, 58, of Greenfield, lost to Vangundy in the 2008 primary. He did not work as a deputy for her.

Devoy said he was asked to run as an independent by members of the local Republican Party after Vangundy was arrested on drunken driving charges last May. Vangundy had showed up impaired at the scene of a death investigation in New Palestine.

Devoy, whose loss to Vangundy in 2008 was considered an upset at the time, argues he is the best person for the job.

“I believe that I have the experience, knowledge, training, and the conservative Republican values to maintain the office and win the integrity and trust back to the Hancock County coroner’s office,” he said.

Fortner, 59, of Greenfield, is also a Republican running as an independent.

Fortner is the emergency medical services coordinator for Hancock Regional Hospital and also works as a paramedic in the emergency room.

Fortner said he knows the competition to fill Vangundy’s position, even for the last few months of the year, is fierce, pointing to Devoy’s law enforcement background and Nylund’s experience as the current chief deputy.

“They’ve got a tough decision to make,” he said of the precinct officials. “By running for the job, that tells them that I want the job, so I might as well see if I can get a running start, so to speak.”

Myers, a Democrat, had not yet filed her interest form with Hancock County Republican Party chair Janice Silvey as of Wednesday morning but said she planned to do so before Friday’s deadline.

Myers, 28, of Greenfield, is a stay-at-home mother of three who is working on her bachelor’s degree in business management through the Western Governors University online program. She also works, part time, stocking shelves at Wal-Mart in Greenfield.

Myers said that while it might be unlikely for the Republican Party to appoint a Democrat – though legally, it can be done – she didn’t see any harm in throwing her hat in the ring.

“The worst thing they can tell me is no,” she said.

Also vying for Vangundy’s position is political newcomer David McWhorter.

McWhorter, 50, of Greenfield, said he intended to run for the office in the May primary but didn’t file because he assumed Devoy, a personal friend, was planning to run.

McWhorter is the general manager of three funeral homes and two cemeteries in Kokomo and Huntington and grew up in the funeral business in Kentucky.

McWhorter said local residents will remember him from a 10-year stint from 1998 to 2007 working at the former Pasco Funeral Home.

While McWhorter would like to hold the coroner’s position until the end of the year, he said Devoy has his support in November, and McWhorter hopes to be one of his deputies.

“I just want to bring back to the families of Greenfield,” he said. “I want them to have comfort and peace of mind and get closure.”

The caucus, which will be held at 7:15 p.m. Monday in the Commissioner’s Court at the Hancock County Courthouse Annex, is open to the public.

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