Three names are vying for the coroner’s position in Walton County in the Republican primary.

Incumbent Joe Page is facing challenges from both retired police officer Stephen Fore and funeral director Gregory Rich, and all three communicated why they are the best choice for the job in an online debate sponsored by the Walton County Chamber of Commerce.

Due to current social distancing restrictions, each candidate responded to questions via computer from their own homes, and each explained why they should be chosen as the next coroner of Walton County.

Page, who currently holds the position, has been either coroner or deputy coroner in Walton County for the past 26 years and said his experience gives him the edge to best continue serving the county in the job.

“I was born and raised here in Walton County,” Page said. “I would love to continue as your coroner.”

Page said the biggest issues the coroner’s office faced was a growing caseload versus a tightening budget.

“The biggest challenge is always the budget,” Page said. “We’ve always operated on a tight budget. Growth is here, though, and our caseload is up with it.”

Stephen Fore has lived in Walton County for more than two decades, raising two children here with a son still in Monroe Area High School. He is retired from the DeKalb County Police Department, where he rose to major before leaving after 30 years of service.

He said he seeks the coroner position as a way to continue his legacy of public service.

“I’ve dedicated my career to public service,” Fore said.

Fore said he felt the coroner’s office needed to be prepared for anything in the continuing wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the threat it posed to all dealing with it in the public sphere.

“We have to prepare for the unknown,” Fore said. “We’ve never seen anything like COVID-19 before. We have to protect our staff and the community.”

Finally, Rich said he would fit right in as coroner after 40 years in the funeral business and 20 years as a licensed minister.

“I want to see the coroner’s officer do more to educate people about what we do and how we serve the community,” Rich said. “I would like to serve the people of Walton County.”

The primary is June 9, though early voting has already begun and mail-in ballots are being accepted until then.

Stephen Milligan is a staff writer for The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.

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