Sheriff Frank Homer gets energy from constituents
Little Ayden Homer still hasn't gotten the hang of campaigning with his grandpa.
He's a trooper when it comes to throwing out candy at parades, but that doesn't stop him from being frisked at the end of the parade route.
"We've found plenty of candy in his pockets by the end of the parade," says grandpa and Sheriff Frank Homer, laughing at the temptation. Ayden is the son of eldest daughter Brittany.
For Homer and wife Lynnette, it was a serious talk last year about whether they wanted to jump into what they knew early on would be a hard-fought campaign.
"We put all the ideas out on the table and that included what we would be able to spend," Homer said.
"And as long as we didn't exceed that, family was in agreement. We set our parameters. We knew what we could spend or not spend."
Nevertheless, Homer worries he's spent "too much."
Youngest daughters Courtney and Brooke headed off to college in St. Cloud this fall.
"I would imagine it was a little tough for them," Homer admitted. "I wasn't able to really do a lot with them this summer and also asking them to help out with campaign issues, parades ad whatnot."
But he said campaigning has overall been fun.
"It's been enjoyable getting together for parades, for certain events, putting your T-shirts on, your buttons on, going out and shaking hands and dishing out candy and little Ayden helping with the candy disbursements," he said, even though Ayden's approach is sometimes "one for you, one for me."'
Lynnette, his wife of 26 years, has been right beside him. She is a teacher in Cass Lake.
Homer said actually being the incumbent, however temporary, has hampered his ability to campaign.
"The job is No. 1 and it has limited my ability to get out and meet as many as I would like to meet," he acknowledged. "I'm hoping to be able to get out and cover the county by the end of the election but it's been cumbersome when you still have to run the department."
But he said meeting people energizes him and gives him new ideas for the department "from things as simple as patrol in certain areas to equipment we may want to introduce to the department," he said.
There are moments of self-doubt, however brief.
"Why am I doing this?" he asked rhetorically in answer to a question.
"If you do get to that point, there's always that original thought in mind. The thought being you know why you're doing this. You have a responsibility to the county to put your best foot forward to continue as sheriff of the county and provide the citizens with the law enforcement services that we have since I've been sheriff. I'm proud of that. "
And for a sheriff whose troops are wavering in their support, he has no such hesitations.
"Our department has done a great job ands it's because of everybody in the department and because of the citizens out there that appreciate what we do," he said. "I'll tell you what, whenever you have a shadow of a doubt you just start thinking of that and boy, you bounce right back."
He laughs about all the fish fries and chicken dinners he's attended and the pounds that are starting to sneak in.
He took an unpopular stance last spring in the state mandated radio conversion to narrowband, choosing a system that was cheaper rather than ask the board to spend for the Cadillac of systems many other counties are choosing.
"It works," he said of the department radios." He sees no reason to change to an unknown.
He wants to continue the round-the-clock patrols he began earlier this year, while still coming in under budget. He believes alliances with drug task forces are working for the county and saving funds to use for extra patrol, not a drug officer.
Homer, who is 10 years older than his opponent, sometimes grimaces that the race has been categorized as a "generational one." Aukes is 40.
But serving another term would allow him to retire with his "high five," what state employees call the averaging of their highest years of salary to provide retirement income.
He has considered the possibility of losing, but only briefly.
Sure, it would hurt his family, he admitted. But he's still a young enough man to change careers and do something different with his life, he reasons.
In any event, he says he's proud of what he has been able to accomplish for the citizens of Hubbard County.