By Mark Gilger

SHAMOKIN - Leo J. Mirolli Jr. believes he is the only "uniquely qualified" candidate for Northumberland County coroner because of his training as a paramedic and funeral director.

The 42-year-old Coal Township Republican earned his certification as a paramedic in 1994 from the Center for Emergency Medicine of Western

Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, and his funeral director license from Northampton County Community College, with an associate in applied science degree in funeral service education, in 2007. His funeral director license is currently inactive, but Mirolli said a yearly licensing fee and completion of continuing education classes would allow him to activate it.

At a recent interview with The News-Item, Mirolli said, "The job of coroner requires a specialized knowledge and exceptionally high level of professionalism. My many years of medical experience, professional training and desire to serve my community have led me to make this commitment."

Dealing with deputies

Mirolli said he views the coroner position as a full-time job. He said he would increase the number of deputies from two to at least three, but they would no longer be paid salaries and benefits as with the current setup. Mirolli said deputies should instead be paid by call, and should not receive benefits.

Mirolli said he would seek to hire paramedics as his deputies rather than those otherwise employed or having ownership in funeral industry businesses to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Mirolli said he was inspired to become a funeral director when he was helping coordinate a family funeral and "wasn't happy with the answers" he was getting to his questions. That funeral did not involve his opponent's funeral home.

Mirolli said he decided to seek political office because he enjoys helping people, especially during difficult times such as the death of a loved one.

Mirolli served as an intern and part-time employee for Leonard J. Lucas Funeral Home in Shamokin for three years, but how the employment ended is disputed. Mirolli said he resigned over pay; funeral home owner Lee Lucas said Mirolli was fired.

Mirolli still owes approximately $3,600 in fines and costs to the county for criminal offenses from 1990 to 2004. Mirolli said it was his understanding that all his fines were paid in full, but when it was brought to his attention years later, he was put on a payment plan.

In a previous story about owing the money, Mirolli said, "Every human being makes bad decisions in life and has skeletons in their closet. My past does not define who I am today."

Salary dispute

Mirolli said the Oct. 1 decision by Northumberland County Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Stephen Bridy to reduce the salaries of elected officials by 42 to 48 percent was "drastic." It hasn't deterred him, however, from seeking the position, which will now pay $30,500 instead of $53,834. The same commissioners also voted to make elected officials pay 50 percent of the county's contribution to health care benefits, but Mirolli said he has insurance through his wife's job.

Mirolli said he would have recommended cutting salaries of elected officials 10 to 15 percent across the board.

"I don't agree with what the commissioners did with the salaries and benefits, but I believe a $30,000 position for this area is a good-paying job," he said.

He said he could cut approximately $15,000 from the coroner's office budget the first day on the job by eliminating health benefits for the deputy coroners.

17 years at Knoebels

Mirolli works on an as-needed, part-time basis as a paramedic for National Event Services based in Yeadon, near Philadelphia, in particular providing services during summer concerts at Montage Mountain near Scranton. He also has been employed as a ride operator for 17 seasons at Knoebels Amusement Resort.

Mirolli said he would give up both positions if elected coroner.

Mirolli was ALS coordinator for American Hose Ambulance in Mount Carmel, a full-time, paid position, before the organization shut down over the embezzlement case involving Thea Tafner.

The candidate is a lifelong resident of Northumberland County, attended Kulpmont Elementary School and is a 1989 graduate of Line Mountain High School and Northumberland County Area Vocational-Technical School. Mirolli also attended Shamokin Area middle and high schools and Mount Carmel Area Junior-Senior High School.

He has been married for 11 years to the former Kelly Donkochik, and has four children: Leo III, Logan, Leah and Luke.

Mirolli is active with the Mother Cabrini baseball organization as team manager of both the minor and major teams. He has been coaching area youth for years and also sits on the board of directors as vice president, and has been vice president of the Mount Carmel Area Junior Baseball League (MCAJBL) for three years.