Presenting county coroner candidate Heather Skinner

By Kendra Hennis 
Name: Heather Skinner 

Age: 41 

Family: Parents: Daryl and Chris Huffstutler 

Husband: Sam Skinner  

Children: Allison, Abbigail, Samantha and Dylan 

Grandchild:Lainey 

Area of representation: Douglas County Coroner Republican Candidate

Educational/professional background: 

1998 Mahomet Seymour High School Graduate 

1999 ICC Certified Nursing Assistant 

2010 Parkland College Graduate: Associates in Applied Science-Registered Nurse 

2010 Christie Clinic Obstetrics and Gynecology-Registered Nurse 

Civic involvement: Newman G.O.A.L (Community based philanthropic organization)

For G.O.A.L., I was part of the planning process and installation of the playground equipment for the Newman Park.

 What qualifications/attributes do you feel you bring to this role?  

There are many qualifications and attributes that make me a great fit to continue being your Douglas County Coroner. However, there are a few that stand out above the rest. Those include:

* Compassion

* Leadership

* Critical Thinking Skills 

* Organization 

* Accountability  

What do you feel are the greatest challenges the county is facing right now? Do you have any thoughts as to how they could be addressed? What do you see as the county’s greatest strengths? 

The single greatest challenge currently for Douglas County is COVID-19. This disease has not only affected the health of the community, but also the local economy. I commend the Douglas County Health Department for working tirelessly to help educate the community about COVID-19 and its effects. With that being said, we have some of the strongest and most resilient people in this county. I have a profound respect for the members of each community who have come together to battle this disease as a whole.   

What factored into your decision to run for this office? Why do you feel you are the better choice? 

I have always had a strong desire to help others. Dealing with the death of a loved one can be very overwhelming for family and friends. I have experienced the unexpected loss of a loved one and am not immune to the pain it causes. Being educated and compassionate, I am able to help those who experience loss, navigate through the worst time of their lives. Not all deaths are from natural causes. Knowing what to look for and asking the right questions can help lead to closure for the families of the descendant. 

I was appointed by the county board as Coroner on July 1, 2020. During the month of July, Douglas County experienced 14 deaths. My office thoroughly investigated each case and brought closure to the families without leaving any questions unanswered. Being a brand new coroner, I had to be resourceful and organized in order to ensure each case received the attention it deserved. 

Have you ever held public office before, and if so, what and for how long? 

After an extensive interview process, the Douglas County Republican Central Committee chose me to be the Republican nominee for coroner in the 2020 General Election. On July 1, 2020, shortly after being nominated by the committee, I was appointed coroner by the Douglas County Board. The last four months have been very rewarding. I am certainly more confident now in my ability to serve the Douglas County community as your coroner.  

What do you feel are the primary responsibilities for the office of coroner? What are your qualifications for this role? 

The primary responsibility of a coroner is to determine cause of death by conducting inquests; facilitating autopsies and conducting pathological and toxicological analyses.

In order to effectuate these processes, one must be able to facilitate 24/7 coverage for a position that is deemed part-time. This cannot be done without strong leadership and teamwork skills. Responding to calls, assembling on-call lists for the dispatch center, investigating causes of death, facilitating autopsies, working with physicians, helping to coordinate transplant plans, assisting in funeral arrangements, completing death certificates and cremation permits are all part of the process. 

In reference to qualifications, I meet all qualifications set forth by state statute. Furthermore, I am a registered nurse and very detail oriented. 

What, if any, do you feel is the most pressing issue facing the office of the Douglas County Coroner? How do you plan to address that issue? 

Prior to being appointed coroner by the Douglas County board, there were twenty-two deputy coroners on staff. Thirteen of these deputies resigned upon my appointment as coroner. I added one deputy coroner to my staff bringing the total to ten. In my opinion this is a comfortable number to have in order to continue to provide top-notch service to the Douglas County community. 

One of the issues I have run into is training for me and the deputy coroners. Due to COVID-19, most training has been either cancelled or rescheduled. In order to address this issue, I have met with other coroners in the area and formed a great working relationship with them. Douglas County is not unique in facing these challenges. All training has been scheduled for future dates. 

What changes, if any, would you make to the office? 

There have been a few changes since I was appointed coroner on July 1, 2020. Lisa Edwards of Arcola was chosen to be my Chief Deputy. Lisa brings with her an enormous amount of experience in handling matters surrounding death. She is a great addition to the office. I have also added a part-time secretary, as there was not one in place upon my appointment. 

 Is there anything else you would like me to add? 

Although I have only been in office a short time, I am grateful for the experience and knowledge I have gained and to all those who have assisted me throughout this journey thus far. I have met amazing people throughout the community and would not have got this far without all their support. The office has an amazing team that I could not be more proud of. I vow to the voters that I will always represent my constituents with honor, pride and transparency.

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