DORSET, Minn. — Supporters of the mayor in the tiny tourist town of Dorset can stuff the ballot box all they want as he seeks re-election. The mayor — a short guy — is known for his fondness of ice cream and fishing. And he's got the county's top law enforcement official in his pocket.
Say hello to Mayor Robert "Bobby" Tufts. He's 4 years old and not even in school yet.
Bobby was only 3 when he won election last year as mayor of Dorset (population 22 to 28, depending on whether the minister and his family are in town). Dorset, which bills itself as the Restaurant Capital of the World, has no formal city government.
Every year the town draws a name during its Taste of Dorset Festival, and the winner gets to be mayor. Anyone can vote as many times as they like — for $1 a vote — at any of the ballot boxes in stores around town. Bobby is running for a second term, and he gets to draw the winning name Aug. 4, so it's possible he could draw his own name.
Calls of "Mr. Mayor" greet Bobby as he strolls around Dorset, handing out his campaign card. One side shows Bobby, his dark hair slicked down, wearing his tan fishing vest over a suit jacket. The other side shows Bobby sitting in a porch swing with his girlfriend, Sophie.
"I would love to be your Mayor as much as I love Sophie," the card reads.
"He's been pretty good. Lotta PR for the town," said his mother, Emma Tufts, 34. "I think he's doing a fine job."
Bobby's job as mayor is to greet people as they come to Dorset, located among the pines and lakes of northern Minnesota about 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis. Resorts and tourism are the main industry, and restaurants ranging from Mexican to Italian to family style line about two blocks on either side of the highway that runs through the middle of town.
Bobby's major act as mayor so far has been to make ice cream the top of the food pyramid. He has many favorite flavors.
"Chocolate. And vanilla. Strawberry. Cotton candy kind. And rainbow sherbet," said the mayor.
On a recent steamy summer morning, Bobby skipped ahead as he led a group of about 20 children and adults on a walk on the Heartland Trail to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley in Fargo, N.D. He wore his signature black fedora, adorned with fishing lures and a large button with his photo, and seemed endlessly energetic.
"I think he's a cute little bugger and I think a lot of people share the same, you know, opinion as me, and it's neat," Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes says. "You know, how often do you see a little kid like that who's — call 'em camera-friendly or whatever, you know — he's got a very good little personality, and he's not afraid to show it. So I think it's great."