Republican candidate Dan Hankins believes he is the most qualified for the job of coroner and has challenged fellow Republican incumbent Robert “Skip” Smith in the Aug. 2 primary election.
Hankins serves as a funeral director at Rea Funeral Chapel in Sedalia. He said he decided to run for Pettis County Coroner because he believes “there are some areas that need attention and as a funeral director I see that and I believe I can make it better.”
“I work with families and as a third-class county we rely on law enforcement and a medical examiner whenever there are things that we have to refer to,” he said. “Like all coroners who are required to do annual training, before I would even take office I’d have to take coroner training and that has to be kept up every year. The longer you’re in the more training you have.”
He said he sees a “large delay” in the issuance of death certificates and that he believes “we can speed that up.” He said he also believes the coroner’s office needs to keep better records, claiming that the current office has not conducted as many calls in the first quarter as reported.
Hankins said he thinks one of the top issues facing the coroner’s office that needs to be addressed soon is implementing a higher level of customer service.
“Families need communication and they need to be informed along the process of what is happening,” he explained. “When someone loses a loved one, they’re already going through a traumatic time, but especially when it involves a sudden loss that involves the coroner. And when they’re left in the dark, funeral homes like us we’re trying to help these people, we’re the first line, and many times even getting authorizations to make disposition of the body is hard to get and we want to make that easier.”
Hankins said he sees the main responsibilities of the coroner as taking possession of the body and making sure it is cared for until it is released to a funeral home, sometimes including sending the body off for an autopsy. He said another responsibility is making sure the families have the right documentation as soon as possible to prevent life insurance payments from being delayed.
He also offered some goals for office, and the common theme of speeding up the process continued.
“Reduce time with the issuance of death certificates, make sure we speed that up,” he said. “Make sure that families and funeral homes do not have to hunt me down for information, we’re proactive in getting them what they need before they have to ask for it. On another level, one concern from citizens is to make sure the coroner ambulance is put on county property and out of residential neighborhoods and look at possibilities of bettering our morgue. Right now it’s better than what we’ve had, but it’s woefully insufficient.”
Hankins said he sees several challenges in fulfilling the position if elected Aug. 2, including keeping the coroner’s office within the county budget.
“One of those budget concerns is unnecessary autopsies. Whenever it is needed we certainly want to do it, but with them costing nearly $2,000 each one, it is a concern,” he said. “And then (another challenge) would be public relations, making sure we’re accessible. Right now there are no set hours for the coroner and we want to see that change. Barring emergencies, (citizens) know how they can find us and when. They won’t get a voicemail that is full where they’re unable to leave even a message.”
Hankins said he also wants to see a more efficient process in handling reportable deaths from entities such as hospice care and nursing homes.
“I am qualified to do the job and I have proven in the community to be an upstanding citizen and I know the ins and outs of this and what is needed and it’s an opportunity to serve and I believe we can bring a level of servant leadership to this delicate position,” he said of why citizens should vote for him.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.