The candidate challenging incumbent McLean County Coroner Kathy Yoder is urging voters to listen to ideas over partisan ties.
Abbi Sorrells is a certified nurse practitioner with a background primarily in emergency in-flight nursing. She said that experience makes her well-equipped to deal with traumatic events and help families through them.
Sorrells is running as a Democrat, but said her political philosophy plays no role in how she’d tackle the job.
“I think that it's very frustrating to speak with people who don't even want to discuss what your plans would be for the office based on your political affiliation. I have conversations with people a lot about how this holds no political power,” she said. “We need to be investigating who we're voting for.”
The McLean County coroner’s office already has a lot going for it, Sorrells said, noting that it’s one of the few in the area that performs autopsies and takes on that role for smaller surrounding counties.
But Sorrells said there’s work to be done in the areas of professionalism and staff retention. If elected, she said, one of her first priorities would be to work with the county board to lower her pay in order to pay other staff better wages.
"One of the things that gets overlooked is a lot of staff in that office have been on a salary freeze for several years, while the role of the coroner continues to get these increases in salary,” Sorrells said. “There has been a big turnover. In fact, in a six-month window, there was a 100% turnover in the full-time staff, and a lot of that had to do with the salary and the work environment.”
Outside of the day-to-day duties of the office, Sorrells said she’s passionate about a number of community health issues, including drug dependency, suicide prevention and access to mental health services. In addition, she said, there’s room for more community outreach and education about things like healthy eating, exercise and smoking cessation.
Sorrells said she’d also like to remove some barriers for people to get documents like autopsy reports from the coroner’s office. There’s currently a statutorily set fee for those documents.
After talking to constituents about the issue, Sorrells said, she’s not sure the fees should be lifted entirely, but does support looking into the office being more flexible.
“I don't think it should be a revenue stream for the coroner's office,” she said. “I think that there should be some discrepancy on waiving fees in order to give, you know, at least the citizens what they need—the documentation for their insurance companies and things like that.”
When it comes time for voters to cast their ballot, Sorrells said she hopes they make an informed decision in the coroner’s race.
“I just hope that people take the time to get to know me as a candidate. I think that, you know, a political label is not the end all be all in this position,” Sorrells said. “At the end of the day, I just want you to vote for a coroner who you know is going to serve you and be there for you if you ever need them.”
Incumbent McLean County Coroner Kathy Yoder did not respond to several requests to participate in a candidate forum.
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