The race for Forsyth County coroner has started with two candidates vying for what likely will be an open post.
Harold “Hal” Bennett and Mary Beth Pais have announced their intent to seek the office in the July 31 Republican primary.
Incumbent Lauren McDonald has announced his intention to run for sheriff.
Qualifying for the local contests will be May 23-25.
Both Bennett and Pais tout years of relevant experience and formal training in medical legal death investigations.
Pais, a registered nurse and faculty member at the Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions at Georgia State University, has worked with forensic pathologists for more than 30 years.
She has experience in the areas of emergency department nursing, supervision, management and education.
Pais also took calls as deputy coroner in Tallapoosa County, Ala., and volunteered as a pathology technician in the Alabama Forensic Lab.
Bennett retired after 23 years with a medical examiner as a forensic investigator in both Cobb and Gwinnett counties. He also has 30 years of experience working with law enforcement.
He also served 20 years in the Navy, as a corpsman, and the Air Force, as a medical technician.
Bennett said his forensics training in different cities and “strong medical background” have prepared him for the job.
“I want to do what I can for the residents who need my services,” Bennett said of his plans if elected.
“I want to get death certificates signed and certified in a timely fashion. It’s a major hardship on them when they have a loved one die, and I want to make the experience a little easier on them.”
Pais said she plans to reduce the budget at least 10 percent by using the services of deputy coroners less frequently.
She unsuccessfully ran for coroner in 2004, but said she feels “this is my time to assist the citizens of Forsyth County.”
“It’s important as a coroner that we remember we are speaking for the individual that is now silent,” Pais said. “It’s important to be able to do that well.”
Both candidates plan to be present at the Forsyth County Tea Party commissioners’ debate, set for 6:30 p.m. Monday in the county administration building.