Swearingen to stay as coroner

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Governor-appointed official retains position after winning election

Gary Swearingen, who was appointed Barry County coroner by Gov. Mike Parson after the death of Jim Fohn, will retain his position after winning a three-man race for the post on Tuesday.

Swearingen, a Republican from Cassville, tallied 10,218 total votes (67 percent). Donald Skip White, an Independent from Cassville, earned 3,139 votes (20 percent), and Rusty Dilbeck, a Democrat from Butterfield, earned 1,947 votes (13 percent).

I just want to thank all the people of Barry County for putting their trust in me to do the same thing Jim Fohn did and serve the people of Barry County, Swearingen said. Its a relief that its all over, and Im looking forward to getting back to doing what I am doing.

All three candidates believe the coroner race coinciding with the presidential election affected the vote to a certain extent.

I think the presidential election helped me as a Republican, and of course, a lot of people knew Jim, so that was part of it, too, Swearingen said.

White said it is hard for any non-Republican to win a race in Barry County, and he hopes a contested coroner election brought more attention to the position itself.

I hope out of this election people realize how important the coroners office is and the look at it more like an investigative career and not a body pickup service, he said. I do not plan to run again, and I do not believe the coroners office should be political, but that does have an effect. Gary does a fine job, and in the end, whatever the people want is what they should get, and they decided. Im happy there was a large turnout.

Dilbeck said he suspected the county would vote heavily Republican, but he was glad to have put his name in the hat.

Its tough to win any race in Barry County as a Democrat, he said. I am not shocked, because this is with a presidential election. I congratulate Gary on a job well done.

My roots in Barry County are Democrat, and my grandad was a strong Democrat and served as presiding commissioner in the 1990s before Cherry Warren. Democrats back then are different than they are today. I thought I would run better than I did, but I expected it to be a huge obstacle to beat a Republican, and one who worked for the funeral home.

Dilbeck said part of why he ran was to move the position away for funeral home reliance, as he was the only candidate of the three who does not work for one.

It just wasnt my time, he said.

Dilbeck said at this point, he is not likely to run again, but he said who knows what the next four years may hold.

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