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Election 2016 — Hopefuls for Forsyth County coroner offer experience
McDonald Lauren
McDonald

About this series

This is the fourth installment in a Forsyth County News’ Sunday series taking a look at the contested races for local elected office in the May 24 Republican primary. There are no contested local races in the Democratic primary. Early voting begins May 2.

FORSYTH COUNTY — For the second consecutive election, Forsyth County voters will be asked to choose a new coroner, as the incumbent is not seeking re-election.

The May 24 Republican primary contest features Lauren McDonald III, who previously held the post for 12 years, and Stan Rutledge, deputy coroner.

The county’s current coroner, Mary Beth Pais, is not running again for the post she has held since 2013. There are no Democrats in the race, so the next coroner will be chosen in May.

Among the duties of the coroner’s office is to determine cause, manner and circumstance of death under the Georgia Death Investigation Act. The coroner works closely with the sheriff’s office.

McDonald was first elected coroner in 2000. He chose not to seek a fourth four-year term in 2012 and instead ran unsuccessfully for sheriff.

“I enjoyed being coroner. I loved the investigative side, and that was part of the decision to run for sheriff,” McDonald said. “When the opportunity came for this election and the incumbent was not going to run, I decided to do it.”

A former volunteer firefighter in Forsyth, McDonald would like to assemble a team, if elected, to best serve the county.

He is a partner in McDonald and Sons Funeral Home in Cumming, which some have questioned as a possible conflict of interest.

McDonald, however, countered that many coroners in the state own funeral homes and that voters should focus on the integrity of the person being elected.

Rutledge cited his work as a paramedic over 33 years, including 30 with Gwinnett Fire and Rescue.

“I’ve been a paramedic since 1983,” he said. “All my certifications are up to date. I’ve worked at the Forsyth County coroner’s office for three and a half years. I’ve been in coroner certification.

“This past year I went to the St. Louis School of Medicine and took the classes and passed the class as a medicolegal death investigator.”

If elected, Rutledge, who is also a graduate of Georgia Coroner School, said he would like to address issues with drugs.

“I would like to work with the sheriff’s department on trying to do something about these kids dying from drugs and work on the drug problem in the county,” he said.

Rutledge is the former CEO of Advance Ambulance, which had been the county’s ambulance provider since 2008 until shutting down in January. Central Emergency Medical Services took over the contract.

Rutledge’s attorney, Stuart Teague, at the time blamed the shutdown on economics and a search warrant executed by the local sheriff’s office at the company’s office and Rutledge’s home.

Last week, Rutledge referred comment on the matter to Teague, who did return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

As of last week, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office would say only that it still was an active criminal investigation.