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Coroner brought professionalism to office
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Dr. Stephen Boyle in his office at the Rockdale County Courthouse - photo by Kathy Hooks

It will be the end of an era when Rockdale County says goodbye to the long-standing coroner this year as Dr. Stephen Boyle leaves his position to make way for a new face.

When first elected in 1996, Dr. Boyle didn't exactly walk in and take over the job. There was no designated coroner's office, no office staff and no direct phone line to reach the coroner. The previous coroner had run the office out of his business and, according to Dr. Boyle, was not well coordinated. Seven people ran for coroner in 1996 and Dr. Boyle went on to easily win re-election to three additional terms.

Since that time, the coroner's office has moved into its own office and has a full-time secretary handling the endless details that can sometimes accompany a death.

"After 16 years, I have probably done as much as I can do to advance this office," Dr. Boyle said from his office in the courthouse. "There really needs to be changes in the office. In the beginning, I had maybe 30 to 45 cases I had to investigate per year and now, it is more like 200. It is really a full-time job. At this stage, the county needs to go that direction."

Dr. Boyle handled his coroner's duties while working as a full-time general surgeon at a local practice he opened in 1976. And though he retired from that position in 2002, he will continue to travel to Indiana one week each month to work as a surgeon. He is also the medical director for National EMS in Conyers and the Rockdale County Fire Department, responsibilities that keep him busy when he is not in the coroner's office or in Indiana.

Dr. Boyle said he has developed a good relationship with the courts and law enforcement agencies that are often involved when a death occurs.

"The biggest thing we have done is create a situation that makes it easy for those agencies to communicate with us and do their jobs," he said. "We have built relationships with the sheriff and police, which was a challenge early on. Getting to know the law enforcement people who are such a dedicated bunch and the elected officials in the county and having a heightened knowledge of what is going on in the community has brought me satisfaction."

Local funeral home owner George Levett will become the new coroner on Jan. 1 after spending three years working under Dr. Boyle as a deputy coroner.

"George gets my philosophy to provide good service and to create as detailed a death report as we can," Dr. Boyle said of Levett. "His priorities are to continue the level of service we have. He has the background as much as anybody who is not a doctor to do this job correctly. The fact that he grew up here means he is dedicated to the county."

At least Levett will be inheriting a full-time secretary and a physical office when he becomes coroner. With the coroner and all three deputy coroners working on a part-time basis, secretary Joyce Rogers will be on hand to assist the new coroner with the knowledge she has gathered from working full time with Dr. Boyle since 2006.

"He has taught me everything and he has been great to work with. He is so easy going," Rogers said. "We have been very fortunate to have Dr. Boyle."

Dr. Boyle and his wife Ethel, a realtor who sits on the Rockdale Medical Center board and is a former elections board member, school board member, and Hospital Authority chair, plan to stay in Rockdale County, where they raised their three children and often host their four grandchildren.