Candidate Spotlight: Matthew Lovett – Bulloch County Coroner

Join us as we chat with Matthew Lovett, candidate for Bulloch County Coroner.

Hear about why he’s running, how he views the role of the county coroner, what changes he would make to the office, and how he plans to incorporate social advocacy into the job, among other things.

Lovett is facing Craig Tremble, who was asked for an interview but declined to participate.

The race will appear on the Democrat ballot and the winner will proceed to the General Election against Republican Chuck Francis.

Election Day for the primary is May 21st. Early Voting runs April 29-May 17, 2024.

Interview transcript below.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Joining us now is Matthew Lovett, who is a candidate for Bullitt County Corner. Matthew is running as a Democrat in a contested primary and will be on the Democrat ballot on May 21st. So thank you so much for joining us.

Matthew Lovett 
Thank you for the opportunity.

Jessica Szilagyi
Do you want to just start off and give us a brief background and a little bit about your employment history here?

Matthew Lovett 
Sure. Again, name is Matthew Lovett. Born and raised here in Statesboro, 44 years old, went to public school system here in Bullitt County, graduated Statesboro High in 1998. Then I furthered my education, University of Phoenix. I have a business degree that I earned there. And then I went on to earn a few other diplomas and degrees from various colleges and tech schools. My passion has always been funeral service, so of course I went to school for that and completed that degree and became a licensed funeral director in Invalma, which has always been a dream of mine since I was seven. I’m the oldest of 11 children, father of six boys, Papa of two beautiful granddaughters, a husband of 20 years to my wife, Lisa. I’ve always served the community, always found a way to give back. We grew up kind of poor, didn’t have much, and that kind of taught me to have a lot of humility and respect the people around you and give when needed and don’t ever expect to receive. So that’s taught me a lot of principles. I was raised by a single mother with the help of my grandmother. Strong -minded, strong will, took a full -time job at the age of 12 and just never stopped.

Jessica Szilagyi 
That’s amazing. so you said that funeral service is your passion, and that kind of ties into coroner, but do you want to kind of just, I think everybody knows what a coroner is, but they don’t necessarily know what all their duties and responsibilities are, especially as an elected position. So you just want to talk about that for a minute.

Matthew Lovett
Mm -hmm. Sure. As a little boy, I always admired the role of a coroner and funeral director. And I started researching it as young as I can remember. And at the age of 44 now, I feel confident that I can hold this position well. 

A coroner is a government official. Of course, they’re elected to serve the county in which they reside. And the main job of a coroner is to investigate deaths that are sudden and unexpected. Most deaths that happen from unknown causes are also considered to be coroner cases. And the role of a coroner also, we have to determine the cause of death. That might involve conducting autopsies, may have to review medical records as well as consulting with medical experts. We have to identify the decedent. We have to work to identify the individuals, especially in cases where the identity is unknown. That has to be confirmed. 

We have to notify next of kin. The coroner’s office is responsible for notifying the next of kin upon the death of a loved one. We have to also, you know, give vital information that’s appropriate about the person’s death to the family or next to kin. We’re responsible for collecting evidence as a result of the death. We are called out on the scene of a crime or the scene of death to take photographs, gather DNA samples and other information that will help detectives in their case study as well. We also are responsible for completing death certificates.

Once the cause of death has been determined, we sign off on that death certificate so that it can be issued to vital records. We have to collaborate with law enforcement, working with the GBI, the local police department, sheriff’s department, and maybe FBI in some cases regarding the cause of death, especially if there’s going to be any legal proceedings following that death. 

There are often opportunities where a coroner has to testify in court. They may be called to testify as an expert witness, to determine the cause of death, where legal proceedings are involved. It’s very crucial in a court of law in determining the cause of death and how a person passed, whether it’s known or unknown. A coroner has a big role to play when determining the cause of death and how and why a person passed.

Jessica Szilagyi 
That’s a lot to take on. And the coroner’s office is its own individual office, but you work with other agencies. So do you want to talk about the fiscal and budgetary responsibilities? Because you don’t have oversight, so to speak, because you’re a constitutional officer.

Matthew Lovett 
Mm -hmm, right. So the coroner’s office, they’re responsible for planning a budget, developing and managing the office’s budget. That could be from the personnel from the coroner himself, as well as the deputy coroners, the facilities that the coroner’s office operates out of, any equipment that is pertained to the job of the coroner and deputy coroners, and other operational costs that helps keep the coroner’s office ran smoothly and effectively. 

Resource allocation, coroners have to allocate resources that would help them carry out their duties as a coroner, prioritizing cases, managing staff workload, coordinating with other agencies, law enforcement agencies, financial reporting, financial records. Of course, there are public information, prepared reports as far as the coroner’s office budget and expenses.

And this information is used for internal management and to comply with state and legal and regulatory compliances. Contract management, we may go into contract with vendors and other services that provide services to the coroner’s office that help support the job of the coroner’s office. That could be contracts for autopsies, laboratory testing, transportation services. You may have a vendor that transports the decedents from the place of death to the medical examiner’s office and then from the medical examiner’s office to the funeral home of choice by the family. Overall, the coroners must manage their office as a business because coroner’s office runs off of public funding. So, everything is transparent, everything is publicized so the public can have access to those records if need be.

Jessica Szilagyi 
I know those are words people like to hear, so that’s good. Are there things that are going on in the coroner’s office that you think you could do better or that you don’t think are being done or perhaps you would just do differently in terms of operations?

Matthew Lovett 
Yeah, there’s quite a few things. For one, I’ve been gathering a lot of information from people in the community. And you know, people really don’t care about the coroner’s office really. You know, it’s nothing that somebody sits and talks about. But the coroner’s office here has had the same personnel for almost 30 years. And you know, it’s just time for new faces, new insight. We’re in a different season now and I think somebody younger, you know. like myself coming in with better ideas to keep up with time and to keep the office more accessible to the public, to the community. I feel that bringing in new leadership will open the door for the coroner’s office to be accessible to the community, be transparent to the community because it’s funded through, you know, public funding. So the community members are actually the ones funding. the work of a coroner. So I think the office should be more open and receptive to the community. 

The plans that I have for the Coroner’s Office of Bullitt County would be to implement programs that would make awareness of the safety of gun violence, drug use, fentanyl use, you know, engage the younger crowd more so because they’re the ones that’s mostly affected in this day and time. And as a funeral director, I funeralize, and in my business, I’ve only been open almost two years, and I funeralize over 10 people younger than me or my age from either drug use or gun violence. And I think the coroner’s office would be the perfect place or the perfect organization to make the importance of gun safety, gun violence, drug use and all that type of thing. Make it more aware to the community itself because I don’t want to just be a coroner who sits there and waits on the death call. I want to be a coroner who’s involved all the way around with his community. 

I’m a community oriented guy. Even here at my funeral home, you know, we try to engage the community with public events, you know, offering free food, opportunity for kids to come out and play with their families and just, you know, just enjoy themselves and have a good time. And I’ve always been the type of person that gives during COVID, or right before COVID came, I started an organization called Beds for Kids. And I personally out of my own pocket, build beds, custom made for children who don’t have them. I supply the bed, the hardware and the mattress. There’s been times where I’ve bought groceries for a family who didn’t have money to eat, helped pay bills. And this is stuff that I do out of the kindness of my heart because I know how people reached out to my family growing up and the help that we had. 

So…I want to use those same principles and ideals in the coroner’s office to make it more accessible to the general public to let them know that, hey, you have an advocate here who is concerned about your safety and wellbeing, but not only that, we’re here, you know, as a shoulder to cry on or ear to listen. As a funeral director, we’re trained to be counselors as well, so I can implement and use a lot of my education and experience as a funeral director in the office of be in a coroner.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Well, you kind of just touched on it a little bit, but it is a contested race in the primary. So why do you feel like you’re the most qualified candidate? What do you bring to the table that kind of sets you apart?

Matthew Lovett
Well, for one, I feel like I’m David fighting against Goliath because I’m going against two gentlemen who’ve been in the office over 20 years. And although I don’t have the experience that they have, I have great leadership skills. I have great character. I have the drive to learn. I’m constantly pushing myself to the limit with challenges, you know, just trying to learn new things all the time to advance not only my personal life, but my career as well. 

And I feel that I’m a better candidate because I’m younger. I have a vision that they don’t have. I have ideals and the energy to put into the corners office to make it more accessible and more transparent to the public than the leadership that’s been there for almost 30 years where they just wait on a call and that’s it. I feel that I’m a better candidate. I’m a people’s person. I really care about my community. That’s been proven over the last few years. And, you know, I’m approachable. Anyone that knows me knows that they can call me at any time of the day or night. And I would like to be that type of corner for families in need as well, not just showing up letting them know that their loved one passed, but also being again that shoulder to cry on and that ear to listen and a guide and a helpmate to families who are struggling and don’t know what to do. I also, I’m very selfless. 

So I’m not running for coroner to say that I’m trying to benefit my business as a funeral home owner or funeral director. I don’t even think about that. Money doesn’t drive me. It’s just an opportunity to give back to my community in a way that nobody else can. 

And with my experience in death care management, I’ve been in management since I was 18. I’ve been a restaurant manager numerous times, retail store manager numerous times. So I have a great strong leadership experience in management. I have a degree in business management and finance. So that alone qualifies me, I think, to be a great coroner in this day and age.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Well, you did a really great job answering my questions thoroughly. But is there anything else that you want voters to know about you before May 21st?

Matthew Lovett 
Well, I’m very accessible. You know, I’ve worked hard all my life. Nobody’s ever given me anything. I’ve built myself from, as they say, from the mud. Even my funeral home, we purchased it and all of the work here I did myself. Even as a funeral director, I don’t outsource anything. I do all of my own embalming, meeting with families. I even, you know, wash cars if I have to, cut grass, whatever I have to do to make sure that the job is done, I do it. And if you’re looking for a candidate to vote for, consider voting for Matthew Lovett. I’m young, energetic, motivated, and I can bring a lot to the coroner’s office that this coroner’s office has never seen.

And versus electing someone who’s already sat in the position of a deputy for over 20 some odd years, it’s just time for new leadership. And I don’t think I’m better than anyone. I’m humble. Again, I’m selfless. I put others before me. I’m not driven by money or any accolades or anything like that. It’s just the heart to serve, to serve the community I live in, to serve the community I love, and to just be that advocate for people when they’re faced with death and they don’t know what to do, and just to be that guide to help them through that process.

Jessica Szilagyi 
Well, are you on social media? Where can voters learn more about you?

Matthew Lovett 
Yes ma ‘am, I am on social media. I’m on Facebook and Instagram as well as TikTok. I have a website, funeral home website is MHlovingandSonsfuneralhome .com. You can also visit Matthew Love It for the number four corner at, well, I’m sorry, Matthew Love It for the number four corner .com. That’s our campaign website.

I’m accessible to anything anybody wants to know. I’m an open book. Feel free to reach out if you want to learn more information. If you want to reach out to help on the campaign, that’ll be great. And just hoping that May 21st will turn in our favor so that we can continue on to November so that we can win this seat.

Jessica Szilagyi
Well, great. Well, thank you so much for chatting with us and good luck.

Matthew Lovett 
Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and co-creator of of the Peabody Award-nominated podcast 'Prison Town.'

Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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