Sgt. Cory Aukes vows to be a cops' cop
Ty and Kate Aukes were right alongside dad Cory last spring to start putting up the campaign signs.
They've attended parades, forums and open houses.
They even dunked Sheriff Frank Homer at a departmental open house last summer, then gave Aukes a high five afterward.
They're typical kids, 8 and 6, who still have time to be kids on the campaign trail. Ty showed up at a recent open house with a face full of poison ivy and a big grin.
Mom Molly, a Park Rapids teacher, took them to the kids fishing derby last summer where they dipped their lines with 73 other kids in the Fish Hook River.
"I can't remember how many parades we've done," said Molly, using her fingers to count.
The Aukes group got off to a strong start, putting up signs all over the county, and starting a Facebook page for supporters.
"He decided it was time to run" and the family was in full support, Molly said.
The Facebook page has been very active. It's central point for campaign announcements and stops, thank you messages and requests for more support.
"We've had quite a few donations," Molly said. "We're very happy with those who have financially assisted the campaign."
Between online pledges and mail-in support, Molly Aukes said the couple has not had to foot many of the bills.
The Aukes campaign is all about change: out with the old, in with the new.
Aukes, a 20-year veteran, has energized a vast array of supporters in the county, out of state and within his own department that are willing to let him lead.
They've sponsored a turkey shoot, a fishing tournament, a golf tournament and other events to bring attention to his race and solicit donations.
The family has enjoyed meeting county residents, although Aukes said he knew many beforehand being a local boy, a high school football hero and a local presence.
He admitted to being a bit doubtful about his public speaking skills and found the recent League of Women Voters forums too constricting.
Two minutes didn't leave him enough time for a substantive answer, he complained.
He insisted his hometown status would not result in favoritism to anyone including friends, family or the public.
"I've had to put former classmates in jail," he said. It wasn't the best day on the job but the law required it, he maintains.
Fair and equitable treatment of citizens and staff is his mantra these days. "You have to treat everybody the same," he says over and over.
"My co-workers consider me to be the future of the department," he said.
He wants to push the department to get better radio equipment faster.
"Cass, Becker and the surrounding counties have better computers," he said.
And he agreed with his opponent that in-car computers "would be invaluable."
Aukes has made "unnecessary paperwork" part of his campaign and has mentioned the time-consuming method of handwriting incident reports that he'd do away with.
Officers are so burdened with paperwork they're reluctant to "go out and write more citations" because it will only add to the backlog, he said after last week's voter forum.
Aukes brushes aside questions as to whether he has sufficient administrative qualifications to run the Sheriff's department and grapple with a budget selected by the county board.
He's been a sergeant and supervisor five years, he said. He doesn't have all the answers but plans to assemble a team that will assist him, he said. He will be inheriting an already completed budget for 2011 and plans to proceed from there, he added. He hopes the economy turns around so he can add personnel, specifically a drug officer, to the force.
But he warned forum participants a sheriff doesn't have "a lot of control" over salaries. Many employees are unionized, he said.
He also wants the department to apply for more enforcement grants that will reimburse overtime for deputies to conduct high visibility drunken driving and other public safety campaigns, he said.
He vows to be a "cop's cop," not just an administrator, he says. It will improve morale, he believes.
Losing will crush him, he admits.
"I'm still an employee, still a sergeant," he said. "You go on. There's still crimes out there."