Dan Stacey is the quintessential nice guy.
Those are the first words universally used to describe Hubbard County District 4's new commissioner.
He's perennially optimistic, despite setbacks that would make others weak.
A longtime Menahga police officer, he met wife Tammey on the job.
Was she cuffed?
The close couple debate how the meeting occurred.
"I think it was a rescue, honey," he said. She smiles.
There were no laws broken.
But their marital vows were sorely tested in 1997 when officer Stacey was clobbered head-on by a drunk driver while out on patrol.
The resulting injuries could have been fatal and took five years to recover from.
"It was a great opportunity to go back to college," Stacey said of his recovery period.
He had decided by then he was interested in being a corrections officer after interning under Hubbard County's chief corrections officer Joe Peterson.
Stacey was a contract corrections officer who wrote pre-sentence investigations.
Those are the weighty documents judges rely upon when sentencing criminals.
Stacey had law enforcement experience in Maplewood, where he worked for the police department there. He worked his way through college at a "catering outfit."
But he'd always loved the north country. He bought land near Mille Lacs at age 15 and had planned on working for the Sheriff's Department there.
He ended up working hospital security at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul for three years, he said.
When he heard of an opening in Menahga, he jumped at it.
For years Tammey, a social worker, commuted to Walker from Menahga. She's now a supervisor for Cass County Social Services.
They raised two sons, Jeff, a deputy for Hubbard County, and Daniel, still in high school.
Stacey took a position in Cass County as a state officer, and eventually took his present job as Nevis School's transportation director.
It was a good fit, he said. He liked the flexibility of the hours and the school system.
The couple had been looking for a more centrally located home when a friend of Tammey's said she was selling a place on Tenth Crow Wing.
It is now their home.
"I like large garages," Dan said of the property's assets.
For Stacey, a self-described "city boy," the solitude was enlightening.
"I drove fast, I talked fast," he laughed.
Tammey was the one who taught him how to run a chainsaw and butcher chickens.
Stacey had contemplated how to give back to the community and decided to mount a challenge to longtime incumbent Lyle Robinson.
"I really had to work at this," Stacey admitted. He went door-to-door and learned people "really wanted to see him" on the ballot, he recalled.
But in doing so, he said he "could feel the pulse of the community. I saw poverty, wealth, struggles and the fear in their faces," he said of his potential constituents.
It inspired him to work harder. He and Robinson emerged from the four-candidate primary and he beat Robinson by 40 votes in November.
He attended a recent Association of Minnesota Counties annual convention, where he got to know his fellow commissioners. He came back infused with energy at the challenges he's about to face and the strengths he said the diversified board would have.
He's still interested in law enforcement and he's particularly interested in youth and leaving a legacy that will keep young people around.
After raising two boys, he and Tammey are excited about their three granddaughters. They were having an overnight recently for three-year-old McKenna, who lives just down the way. They were going ice fishing.
"I'm probably more introverted," said Tammey.
"And I'm more extroverted," Dan finished the sentence. "It balances out."
The close-knit duo admits that their "trials and tribulations" have made them stronger as individuals and as a couple.
On the campaign trail, Dan Stacey met people "that I know I'm going to talk to."
The gregarious man said he likes to use others as a sounding board.
"I like to surround myself with forward thinking, pro-active people," he said, admitting his transportation crew in Nevis is a great "group of people I can bounce ideas off of."
Stacey brings a wealth of experience to his new job. He has also previously worked as a property manager and feels his law enforcement training will be a definite asset.
On the living room wall is a mural of what the lake view outside looks like, only enhanced with birds and year-round greenery.
Stacey said it reminds him of the work the county needs to do to protect its lakes and environment.
But his thoughts go back to the people.
"Nine-point-six percent unemployment is too high," he said of the county he will serve. "People don't just need a job to get by on, they need a job to raise a family with."
And he wants to look out for the seniors who come to Hubbard County to retire.
Just as he rescued Tammey years ago, he now wants to turn his attention to the county he's excited about serving.