Pathologist quits race, calls truce
A rare battle for the office of Mesa County coroner is dead on arrival.
Former Mesa County coroner and local forensic pathologist Dr. Rob Kurtzman said in a press release Friday he’ll withdraw from the 2014 race for coroner and endorse Mesa County’s incumbent coroner seeking a third term, Dr. Dean Havlik.
The men have “successfully worked out a plan to implement their visions for the coroner’s office and will continue to work together as forensic pathologists for the Mesa County Coroner’s Office,” Kurtzman said in a release.
“Dr. Havlik and I have spent many hours discussing the changes we would like to see for the future and understand that our ideas are compatible as we anticipate moving forward together to best serve the community,” Kurtzman’s release said.
Kurtzman didn’t immediately specify upcoming office changes raised in the release. Reached for comment, Kurtzman said he will again perform autopsies for Mesa County. Havlik, too, was vague about changes or factors influencing Kurtzman’s departure from the race.
“It’s really not helping anybody if we’re at odds with each other,” Havlik said. “It’s pretty unusual to have two forensic pathologists in a community this size.”
Kurtzman on March 29 at the Mesa County Republican Assembly won top billing over Havlik on the ballot in the primary election scheduled for June 24. Kurtzman nearly doubled Havlik’s delegate vote count.
Longtime colleagues, the two men were surprising political opponents.
Kurtzman was elected coroner in 1998 and performed the county’s autopsies through the company he founded that year, The Pathology Group. He hired Havlik in 2001 to assist him in the office. Kurtzman left office in 2006 because of term limits and sold his interest in the company to Havlik, who ran for coroner unopposed and took office the following year. Kurtzman continued to perform autopsies as an employee of Havlik’s.
Havlik switched parties from Democrat to Republican to challenge Kurtzman in the June 24 primary election.
“He’s (Kurtzman) good at the autopsy part of it. I’ll leave it at that for now,” Havlik told the Sentinel in a Dec. 6, 2013, story announcing Kurtzman’s candidacy for coroner.
After the story was published, Havlik terminated a contract with Kurtzman to perform Mesa County autopsies.
Havlik was also quoted in a Sentinel story published on March 23 reporting that several hundred autopsy reports were never completed during Kurtzman’s prior term as elected coroner.