Dr. Shannon Cooper said the focus of his re-election campaign for East Baton Rouge Parish coroner is experience, integrity and professionalism.

The Republican incumbent faces two opponents in the Oct. 22 primary. A runoff election, if needed, is scheduled Nov. 19.

“The main difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m a pathologist, I’m experienced in autopsies and death investigations, and I have eight years’ experience in the Coroner’s Office,” Cooper said.

Cooper, 67, was first elected coroner in 2003 and was unopposed in the 2007 election.

The Baton Rouge resident is a pathologist with more than 40 years of medical experience. He is also an attorney and a former U.S. Navy Medical Corps lieutenant commander.

Cooper earned his medical degree in 1968 from Tulane University and his law degree in 1986 from Loyola University.

Having a law degree, Cooper said, is another thing that sets him apart from the other candidates and is a tool that helps him handle the office’s routine legal issues.

“Most people think the coroner is an autopsy service, but we are also responsible for orders of protective custody and mental health issues,” Cooper said. “All of these things have legal ramifications.”

During his two terms as coroner, Cooper said, he has guided the Coroner’s Office through several major disasters and has made a host of changes to the office.

Some of those changes include implementing electronic records for all medical data and doubling self-generated revenues, which account for about $200,000 of the office’s $1.4 million budget, Cooper said.

If re-elected, Cooper said, he would continue to work with other agencies in the parish to fight crime. He said his office also would continue to be heavily involved in disaster planning.

Cooper is married to Pamela Cooper.

He is running against Republican Dr. William “Beau” Clark and Democrat Dr. Eric Teschke.

The office does not have a term limit.

East Baton Rouge coroner

Dr. Eric Teschke, a candidate in the Oct. 22 primary for East Baton Rouge Parish coroner, said if he’s elected he will work to “resolve many legal and ethical issues involving the current coroner’s administration.”

Teschke, a Democrat, is one of two people challenging the incumbent. A runoff election, if needed, is scheduled Nov. 19.

“Medications and any other evidence removed for a death investigation should be logged in and placed in a secure place within the Coroner’s Office,” Teschke said. “The position of an investigator should never be used to gain access to medical facilities or for personal gain.”

In an effort to boost the office’s revenue stream, Teschke said, he would contact other area coroner’s offices and offer to help them with their investigations and autopsies.

“A better working relationship with local funeral homes, crime lab, hospitals and local police is a priority,” he added.

Teschke said he has been trained by the Saint Louis University School of Medicine as a medicolegal death investigator. Such investigators assist in the investigations of unexpected, unnatural, suspicious or violent deaths.

He said he is certified in emergency medicine, a field in which he has practiced for 25 years.

Teschke said he completed his residency at LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center, where he served as the center’s first chief resident.

As chief resident, he said, he helped set up many of the resident conferences and a teaching rotation with neurologists and neurosurgeons. Teschke said he also helped refine equipment and medications carried by doctors on Acadian Ambulance AirMed helicopters.

“Psychiatric evaluations as well as critical care and sometimes, unfortunately, death, are an integral part of the practice of emergency medicine,” Teschke said. “These are also the realm of the coroner.”

Teschke is married to Sheryl Jackson Teschke, his wife of 15 years. The couple has four children and attends Second Baptist Church.

He is running against incumbent Dr. Shannon Cooper and Dr. William “Beau” Clark. Both are Republicans.

The office does not have a term limit.

West Feliciana Parish assessor

ST. FRANCISVILLE — Pledging to continue modernizing his office and the services it provides, Randy Ritchie is a candidate for re-election as assessor of West Feliciana Parish in the Oct. 22 primary election.

Ritchie, 60, has worked in the Assessor’s Office since 2000, and is now serving his second term.

He is married to the former Linda Morris and has four daughters and 10 grandchildren.

A 1969 St. Francisville High School graduate, Ritchie has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and has credit for continuing education, including 317 hours in real and personal property appraisal.

Ritchie, a Democrat, said that to accomplish fair and equitable treatment of property owners, he has gotten 50 percent of his office staff certified through the Louisiana Assessors Association and new employees are required to become certified.

Through active field work, the office has data on almost every building in the parish and keeps records of all land sales.

“My goal was to have an efficient office. One way to do this was to eliminate the paper in the office. All documents have been scanned into our assessment software, and we maintain this process with all new records,” Ritchie said.

Through an arrangement with the clerk of court, the Assessor’s Office has electronic access to public conveyance records, which “has saved our taxpayers considerable sums of money,” he said.

From the office’s workstations, employees may access information on each parcel of land, including a basic footprint of all structures and photos of its perimeter.

“When we attend classes with other jurisdictions, both in state and out of state, many have remarked how advanced our office procedures are,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie began using a web-based program to access parcel maps through a cooperative endeavor agreement with the Police Jury, Communications District and the Assessor’s Office.

“I have installed public terminals for taxpayers, abstractors, appraisers, and others who would need to access this information, and my office staff is available to assist anyone who is unfamiliar with computer use or our digital system,” Ritchie said.

“With the opening of the John James Audubon Bridge and the four-lane completion of Highway 61, many people feel West Feliciana Parish will experience growth and expansion. My office is prepared to meet that growth as it occurs,” he said.

Ritchie is opposed by Hamilton Willis.

Compiled from Advocate staff reports