The race for a four-year term as county coroner pits the 26-year chief deputy coroner against a six-year deputy coroner, who has worked on a contract basis.
Jody DeLuca Hissong has worked for the coroner’s office for 28 years, first as a deputy coroner, then as chief deputy beginning in 1984. Debbie Wilkey has served as a deputy since 2004, going to death scenes when the coroner or chief deputy is not available.
Wilkey, a registered nurse, also has worked in law enforcement and has a master’s degree in forensic anthropology. She has picked up the endorsement of current coroner, Dr. Robert West, whose retirement has opened the position.
DeLuca Hissong has been endorsed by the Kootenai County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the Coeur d’Alene Police Department Association, and the coroners from Bonner, Boundary, Benewah, Shoshone and Ada counties. She said experience is what matters to make fiscally responsible decisions regarding which deaths require autopsies.
The position pays $61,535 a year, plus health care benefits.
• Jody DeLuca Hissong , 67
Bio: Chief deputy coroner for 26 years, Idaho State University, nursing, 1963; licensed practical nurse; 18 years as office nurse for former coroner, Dr. William Wood; attended more than 20 death investigation seminars and courses, including an FBI course and the Masters Conference in St. Louis; member of the National Association of Medical Examiners and Coroners. Married, four children, two stepchildren, 12 grandchildren, one great-grandchild.
Campaign promises: Maintain the ethical, respected and professional office that exists. Be a voice for the deceased and an advocate for the families of the deceased, using knowledge and experience to save county tax dollars.
Notable: DeLuca Hissong has signed about 1,000 death certificates in the past five years.
• Debbie Wilkey , 56
Bio: Deputy coroner for six years; bachelor’s degree in science, Lewis-Clark State College, 1998; master’s degree, University of Montana, forensic anthropology, 2008; associate degree in nursing, North Idaho College, 1989; completed police academy at Idaho State University in 1973; worked 21 years as a nurse and eight years as a police officer. Single, two grown children.
Campaign promises: Be ethically accountable in determination and manner of death while also being fiscally responsible. Make educated decisions about which deaths require autopsies. Stay focused on training and research, bringing protocols up-to-date with national standards.
Notable: Wilkey also teaches forensic anthropology at NIC.