Primary voters of Tioga County have an interesting choice between Republican candidates for Coroner. Stu Bennett has been one of Tioga County’s four Coroners for the past five years, having been appointed to fill a vacant position and then winning election to the post. Opposing Bennett is Jack Manzer, with 20 years experience as a police officer.
At a time when it’s not unheard of for elected positions to go without anyone stepping forward to fill them in Tioga County, Manzer and Bennett both praise one another for running. Both eschew politics, and leave it to voters to decide.
Bennett is an accomplished forensic reconstruction expert, having worked on several high profile cases including Billy Martin’s fatal accident and the murder of Martin Dillon in Montrose, Pa.
Bennett has several degrees in forensic science, accident reconstruction, and forensic toxicology included in an impressive list of educational achievements. Bennett has also received letters of endorsement from 11 lawyers, doctors, and coroners from several neighboring counties including Bradford County, Pa. Coroner Thomas M. Carman.
Fellow coroners Linda Hurley of Otsego County, Whitney Meeker of Cortland County, and Bradford’s Carman each speak in glowing terms of Bennett’s knowledge and compassion. Meeker praises Bennett’s insight and creation of a software program to track overdose deaths in nine New York counties and Bradford County in Pennsylvania.
Bennett started down the path to forensics following conversations he had with his company commander while serving in Vietnam, Roy Hazelwood. Bennett was a military police officer, and went on to serve in law enforcement after leaving the service. Bennett said then Tioga County Sheriff Roy Ayers recognized Bennett’s interest in forensic investigation, and encouraged him to go to college in the late 1970’s.
Bennett sees his job as one of documenting the scene, and his extensive knowledge allow him to notice details others may overlook. His work to create the online database for tracking overdose deaths with Dr. James Terzian, medical director of Pathology and Laboratory at Lourdes as well as Forensic Pathologist in Binghamton, is recognized as an innovative tool New York law enforcement is anxious to see throughout the state.
Manzer is quiet and soft spoken when you speak with him. He’s compassionate, and is earning his emergency medical technician certification while working as an Owego Police officer. Manzer responded to a call of a person in distress, suffering a heart attack. The thought of leaving his fellow citizen there to die while they called an ambulance motivated Manzer to attain qualification to do something about it.
Manzer knows what the job of a coroner is from his 20 years as a police officer in Owego and Vestal, adding he has seen many unattended deaths during that time. He’s worked closely with coroners, and Manzer said it’s not a county coroner’s job to be a medical examiner. If that’s what Tioga County wants, Manzer said they should look into getting a doctor or similar professional to take on the job.
The county coroner is tasked with determining if the cause of death is natural or accidental, while law enforcement have the resources to investigate suspicious deaths.
Manzer said he is more than able to do the job of coroner for Tioga County, has the experience to do the job, and is looking forward to continuing his service to the community by being Tioga County Coroner.
In addition to the Manzer/Bennett race, Republican voters will also decide who will face Democrat Anndrea Starzak in the District-52 New York Senate seat race. Long-serving incumbent Tom Libous faces Candor businessman Denver Jones in the Republican primary.
While Starzak doesn’t face a primary challenge, Governor Andrew Cuomo is being challenged by Zephyr R. Teachout and Randy A. Credico for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to face Republican Rob Astorino this November.
In the Democratic Lt. Governor primary, Kathy C. Hochul and Timothy Wu are vying for the voter’s approval. Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss is the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, and does not face a primary challenge.
The Republican Primary is Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014; polls open at noon and remain open until 9 p.m. Contact the Tioga County board of Elections at (607) 687-8261 for polling locations and more information.