Three candidates were selected as finalists for the impending  vacancy of the Natrona County Coroner during  a special meeting of the Natrona County Republican Party’s central committee on Tuesday.

They are James Whipps, Russ Dalgarn and Nicolette Hanson.

County elected offices are partisan, unlike Casper City Council which is nonpartisan.

County GOP Chairman Dr. Joseph McGinley called for the special meeting after Coroner Connie Jacobson announced her resignation, effective Aug. 31, on July 17.

"It's not a position that comes up for a topic of conversation often, but boy is that important," McGinley said after the meeting.

"If you're in need of a coroner, the expertise of the coroner, you need someone that's qualified and someone that's dedicated to that job and position," he said

Applicants had to be qualified electors, be registered Republicans and submit their resignations by noon Monday.

The central committee now will submit the names of the candidates to the Natrona County Commission, which will interview them during a work session at the Old Courthouse at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 6, and then select one probably before noon, Commission Chairman Rob Hendry said after the meeting.

The interim coroner will complete Jacobson’s term ending Dec. 31, 2022.

Tuesday, 107 voting members of the central committee heard from the eight candidates: Whipps, Dalgarn, Hanson -- the top three vote-getters -- and Worth Christie, Rebecca Fleming, David Florence, Gary Loghry and Richard Mackler.

The candidates were allowed two minutes to give opening statements, and then asked three identical questions. The candidates were sequestered so they couldn’t hear the answers given by the others.

They were asked about their qualifications, the coroner’s duties, and why they want the job and whether they would run for re-election.

Wyoming law mandates the coroner to investigate and assist in the determination of the manner and cause of deaths. The coroner directs independent medical and legal investigations of death cases that come under the jurisdiction of the office, determines the positive identification of the decedent, and responsible for finding the cause of death where circumstances surrounding the death are obscure or suspicious.

Most candidates outlined these responsibilities in their presentations.

All three finalists said they would run for re-election.

Whipps said he is Jacobson's lead investigator, is certified for the post, has a certification with the American Board of Legal Investigators, and has been with the office for 15 years.

"There's only a handful of us in Wyoming with that certification," he said.

The coroner has a larger role in leadership and administration, and he earned that experience in the military, business and the government, Whipps added.

After finding the truth about the death, the coroner also has the responsibility to deal with the family of the decedent in a time of crisis, he said.

Dalgarn said, he too, has worked in the coroner's office as a deputy coroner for the past 10 years, and has training at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy as a death investigator.

He became interested in the work of the coroner after he was on an ambulance call for a young woman who had severe respiratory distress and died. He visited with the late Coroner Dr. James Thorpen to find out why she died, he said.

Thorpen told him he had the drive to find out why someone died and asked him to become an on-call investigator and a deputy coroner, Dalgarn said.

Besides the statutory requirement to find the cause and manner of death, the coroner has the responsibility to give closure to the decedent's family and help them through their healing, he said.

Hanson said she is a doctorate board-certified nurse practitioner; has been a critical care nurse; has bachelor's degrees in biology, zoology, physiology and nursing; and knows how to deal with paperwork.

She has good people skills, compassion, loves research, takes care of people from all walks of life and knows how to help them cope and grieve, she said.

"I've held people's hands who are dying," Hanson said. "I've been to funerals of people I've known for only four or five hours; and after their passing, families have gotten to know me just a little bit, and it was important to them."