The Dead Don’t Die in Elmore County

Elmore County, Idaho is a beautiful place where the Snake River flows and host of the Mountain Home Air Force Base. It’s a peaceful place where one can live and, hopefully, die in peace.

In the early summer of 2019, Elmore County’s coroner Jerry Rost decided he wanted to retire. He had trained his assistant and deputy coroner of 13 years, Nickie Campbell to replace him. Elmore, like many Idaho counties, elects its coroner during regular election cycles. Rost’s retirement outside an election cycle meant that the Elmore County Republican Central Committee (ECRCC) needed to submit 3 names for consideration to the county commissioners to pick his successor. Rost, a Republican, had recommended Campbell to succeed him and she would go on to work as the director at his funeral home.

Campbell, the obvious choice for the job, attended the ECRCC meeting to get the nomination.

The ECRCC nominated Barry Petersen (former Idaho GOP and ECRCC chairman), Mark Rhatigan (Current ECRCC Chairman), and Gayle ReMine. Campbell’s name was noticeably absent from the list. Whether the fundamentalist leadership of the ECRCC felt Campbell was a RINO (Republican In Name Only) or did she not fit their vision of what a good Conservative Republican should look like to fill a job opening that has nothing to do with politics is beyond me. Either way, she was ignored because she may have been deemed not politically worthy to perform a job she was trained to do.

After ReMine declined the job, Petersen was sworn in as the new Elmore County coroner.

The county coroner really has one job – declare the deceased legally dead and sign the death certificate. The dead can’t really die until the county coroner’s signature says so.

Shortly after Petersen was sworn in, someone in the county passed away. Petersen was called and was unavailable to do his job. 

Meanwhile, the recently deceased laid up in the funeral home in legal uncertainty while the county attorney and local judge scrambled to find a law on the books on how to handle a death when the county coroner is not present to sign the certificate. Eventually, they found a way to get Campbell to fill in and declare the deceased dead.

Then another poor soul passed and Petersen could not be reached.

A sheriff’s deputy was called out to Petersen’s home to drag him to do his job to avoid another potential legal zombie outbreak situation.

Petersen resigned after this embarrassing mess.

Frustrated with how the ECRCC selection process went down, members of the Elmore Republican party staged a recall vote to replace Rhatigan and Campbell was picked to be the new coroner. Rhatigan was so furious at being recalled, he stormed off with the gavel in a show of defiance.

As far as we know, Elmore County is safe from zombie outbreaks for the time being. Hopefully, the ECRCC has learned its lesson that fundamentalist party loyalty should never trump common sense.

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