Former Waukegan police chief Artis Yancey was named Lake County's next coroner, county officials announced Monday.
Yancey, 51, must be confirmed by the county board at its April 12 meeting before he assumes the office left open by the February resignation of Dr. Richard Keller.
"I have spoken to every member of the board and not one of them has any problem with this appointment," county board Chairman David Stolman said. "Artis Yancey has the knowledge, experience and temperament to make him the perfect choice for coroner."
Keller resigned Feb. 22 after pleading guilty to delivery of a controlled substance and obstruction of justice in connection with his role as the medical director of a Waukegan methadone clinic. The clinic was linked to an overdose death in a years-long investigation.
Keller was placed on probation and fined in a plea negotiation with prosecutors that required his resignation from the office and the surrender of his medical license.
Yancey served 21 years with the Waukegan police department, rising from patrol officer to detective to deputy chief before his appointment as chief in 2009. If confirmed, Yancey will be the first black to hold countywide office in Lake County's history, Stolman said.
Yancey said Monday he welcomed the new challenge.
"My passion is public service," Yancey said. "I look forward to treating every citizen of Lake County with dignity and respect."
In June 2009, Yancey suffered several broken bones in his face in what police said at the time was an attack by North Chicago police officer Carl Sain, who found Yancey in the Waukegan home of Sain's estranged wife.
A jury found Sain not guilty of aggravated battery in April 2010, and Yancey continued to serve as Waukegan chief until his retirement in August of that year. Stolman said he assembled a search committee to fill the coroner's position -- County Board member Audrey Nixon, Sheriff Mark Curran, State's Attorney Michael Waller, state Sen. Terry Link and George Filenko, president of the county's chief of police association.
The committee was impressed with Yancey's experience in handling death investigations, and gave him high marks for his ability to interact with family members following a death, Stolman said.
Officials were required to appoint a Lake County resident who was a Democrat because Keller was a Democrat when he was last elected in 2008.
Curran was appointed to take over operations of the coroner's office following Keller's resignation. Two days after that appointment, Curran called the office "a hornet's nest of bad management and bad decision making."
He said at the time he intended to reorient employees to accepted procedures and would conduct a complete operational and financial audit of the office.
Curran said he intends to discuss that audit at a press conference scheduled for April 7, and added he would work closely with Yancey in his transition.
Yancey said he was ready to face whatever problems may exist in the coroner's office operations.
"We will do a complete assessment of current practices," he said. "And we will implement the best practices of coroner's offices throughout the country."
Once approved by the county board, Yancey will serve out Keller's term that expires in November 2012. He said Monday it was too soon to tell if he will run for a full term of his own in the office that currently pays $122,000 per year.