Registered nurse to take on incumbent

CHESTER -- A registered nurse will face off against the incumbent Chester County coroner during Tuesday's Democratic primary.

Betty Griffin, a registered nurse, said her nearly eight-year stint as a former Chester County deputy coroner and her nursing background make her qualified for the coroner post.

"Death is probably the worst time of life," Griffin said. "I want to make it easier. My compassion, hopefully, will help them make it through."

During his three-year tenure, Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker has handled 400 deaths, including natural deaths and fatalities resulting from homicides, suicides and car accidents.

"You only learn that being on the job," Tinker said. "I'm more qualified. I've proven myself in the three years that I've been coroner."

Griffin served as deputy coroner under former Coroner Watson Wright from about 1998 to 2005, she said.

"I helped him as his medical consult," Griffin said. "I helped him collect forensic evidence."

Tinker was appointed to the post after Wright's death. Since his appointment, Tinker has established a coroner's office and been allotted a county vehicle and gas for his deputy coroner, he said. Four deputy coroners acquired state certification, he said.

Tinker speaks at Chester County high schools before prom season to help deter drunk driving-related fatalities.

"I'd rather talk to them now then have to talk to their families later," Tinker said.

During the talks, Tinker shows students black, blue or white bags that are used to transport bodies. Griffin has a problem with those bags and said she will revert to the black forensic bags that Wright once used.

"I know they cost a little more, but they're safer for transporting bodies," Griffin said. "They're easier to handle."

If elected, Griffin said she plans to bring a new deputy coroner on board and send autopsies to Newberry instead of Rock Hill. Tinker said he plans to team with the S.C. Highway Patrol next month in a joint initiative to combat drunk driving.

Win or lose, both candidates will be content, they said.

"I'm just trying to do something I feel very strongly about," Griffin said. "If the people don't want me to do it, that's fine."

Said Tinker: "I have given this job 110 percent. If I get beaten, I'll leave Dec. 31, and I won't look back. I'm proud of what I've done, and I'm proud of my deputies."

The coroner serves a four-year term and earns $27,310.91 annually.