On the government beat: Hennepin County offices show off extra flair

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2013 - 8:16 PM

Some politicians distinguish themselves not just by the offices they hold but what their offices hold.

Rubber duckies and other toys fill the shelves in Hennepin County District Judge Herbert Lefler's chambers at the downtown Juvenile Justice Center.

"I wanted to have an office that looked less legal, less intimidating, perhaps even fun," Lefler said. "I was hoping to create an atmosphere that was looser and perhaps more in keeping with the subject of our cases -- children."

But the motif was not by his design. The collection started with a single duck on his desk from his daughter. Colleagues brought him more ducks. He estimates he has about 30 ducks, rubber and otherwise.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson's office walls are filled with authentic presidential campaign posters.

He's got a familiar-looking face on a "Romney: Great for '68" poster. There's a poster of Alf Landon and Col. Frank Knox, one of Bush/Quayle '88 and "You Win When you Vote for Ike and Dick." He's also got posters with Wendell Willkie and Thomas Dewey.

Johnson said he never spent more than $60 for a poster, collecting them in small towns when he traveled for work at Cargill.

The Republican has a reverence for history. He noted the staple holes on the Jesse Jackson poster -- an indication it once hung on display -- maybe in Chicago, he said.

His favorite: The one featuring full-length shots of then-candidate Theodore Roosevelt and running mate Hiram Johnson. (The two lost on the 1912 Progressive Party ticket.) "It's a little bit like a work of art," Johnson said. The poster carries a quote from Kipling, "For there is neither East nor West, Border nor Breed nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face."

Until he came to the board, his posters were stored at his home.

"My wife was happy when I won four years ago so I had a place to put them," he said.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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