Would it surprise you to know that the Benton County Coroner's Office responds to about 1,000 deaths a year? It's an average of about three per day. It's a busy office with a small staff.
It's also an office that most of us eventually will have some contact with -- and it probably will be one of the worst days of our lives.
What does the coroner do anyway?
He or she is responsible for death investigations, which can include handling the body, determining cause, time and manner of death, deciding if there is a need for an autopsy and working with the family -- in addition to running an office and keeping a budget.
In the case of a homicide, the coroner's judgments could become a crucial part of a trial.
The job is part medical professional and part police investigator, sprinkled liberally with compassion.
Both candidates in this race have strong credentials and experience. Their strengths are in different areas, but neither candidate has a blinding weakness.
In fact, they are from the same political party, Republican, even though political affiliation has no bearing on a candidate's ability to perform the job.
John Hansens has the clear upper hand in the area of police work. He has been a commissioned law enforcement officer for 31 years, with 21 years as a detective. He has been trained in death investigation through state and federal agencies.
Alberta Redwing, however, has actual coroner experience. She has been working in the coroner's field for the past eight years -- 61/2 years in the Benton County office and 11/2 years as a freelancer. She has attended 2,200 death investigations and assisted in more than 270 autopsies.
In deciding between the two, voters will have to weigh these qualifications. We have decided that either one could do the job, but believe the scale tilts a bit in favor of Redwing's on-the-job experience.
We also were impressed by her obvious empathy for the families she has served over the years. No one wants to hear bad news, but we would trust Redwing to deliver it with compassion and sensitivity.
Other qualifications being comparable, we think she would be more inclined to hold the hand of a grieving spouse or a distraught parent.
The Tri-City Herald editorial board recommends Alberta Redwing for Benton County coroner.