HEFLIN — Adams Downs said he was ready to “hit the ground running” after being sworn in as the Cleburne County coroner Wednesday afternoon.
Downs officially takes over as coroner on Jan. 14 when the term of Coroner Tracy Lambert ends. It’s a job Downs said he’s wanted for several years.
“It means a lot to me ... I’m eager to do it,” he said.
Probate Judge Ryan Robertson administered the oath of office during a brief ceremony in the main courtroom at the Cleburne County Courthouse. After signing some paperwork, Downs was congratulated by friends and family who had gathered for the ceremony.
Downs, 39, ran unopposed in last year’s election and will serve a four-year term.
Born in Carrollton, Ga., Downs moved with his family to Ranburne when he was 2 years old. He graduated from Ranburne High School and earned funeral services and mortuary science degrees from Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham in 2009.
Downs said he’s worked in the mortuary business for 12 years.
Downs said the coroner’s job is to officially pronounce people deceased in any unattended death — situations which include automobile accidents, suicides and homicides. Anybody who dies not under hospice care or under the care of a doctor would need to be declared deceased by the coroner’s office, according to Downs.
Downs said that the coroner’s job is not to investigate any deaths.
“That’s left up to the Sheriff’s Office.”
According to Kim Brown, Cleburne County’s chief financial officer, the coroner’s budget is $17,773.67 which includes $12,000 for a yearly salary. Brown said the commission is going to revisit the Coroner’s Office budget in upcoming meetings.
The Cleburne County EMS has donated a surplus ambulance to the Coroner’s Office to use when Downs takes office. He said he’ll go with what the commission has budgeted for his office, adding, “We may have to do some adjustments on stuff.”
Lambert — who is also the Cleburne County EMS director — has been the coroner for more than three years and said he “totally enjoyed” his period of service.
However, the job was also time-consuming, too much so for his preference.
“You have to be on call 24-7, 365,” Lambert said.
Lambert said that he relies on unpaid deputy coroners to assist him when he is not available — one of Lambert’s deputy coroners is Hollis Fire Chief Dan Hopkins.
“He was a life-saver but we couldn’t compensate them. There’s nothing in the in budget to compensate them,” Lambert said.
“Dan was invaluable to me and he hadn’t made a dime,” Lambert said.
Downs approached the Cleburne County Commission in July to inquire about having deputy coroners and other transportation issues, but for now, he said, he wants to work with the commission and “make everything go smooth and the transition easy.”