by Todd Mahon
Anoka County’s longest serving sheriff was Ralph “Buster” Talbot.
He was elected by the people of Anoka County in six consecutive elections between 1962 and 1982. He retired at the end of his four-year term in 1986.
But he may have never been in that position had it not been for his appointment to the position of sheriff by the Anoka County Board in the fall of 1960.
In October of that year, Sheriff Mike Auspos informed the county board that he would retire on Dec. 1, 1960, with two years remaining in his elected term.
Sheriff Auspos was a larger-than-life figure in the county with several press accounts of his high speed chases, shootouts, and his physical stature turning him into a figure of near mythological proportions.
As a child, Talbot said he thought Auspos and Paul Bunyan were one and the same.
The task of replacing Auspos fell to the five-member Anoka County Board of Commissioners.
In his letter of resignation, Auspos gave his endorsement and recommendation to Irv Barrett, a deputy in the office.
Commissioners Gus Johnson and Fred Knodt supported Barrett for sheriff; Johnson was the chairman of the board.
The only other name that received any serious consideration was Talbot’s.
When asked about what his thoughts were on the possibility of him serving as sheriff Talbot said, “I was young and cocky and I thought ‘why not?’”
Talbot explained how he and Barrett had discussed the issue of them both wanting to be the next Anoka County Sheriff.
“I told him if I got it, I wanted him to work for me and if he got it, I would work for him,” Talbot said.
Talbot had the support of Commissioner Ed Fields.
Commissioner Al Kordiak knew he would have to work with whoever was appointed sheriff.
He had a man from Columbia Heights who he preferred, but he couldn’t get support from any of the other commissioners for his candidate.
Kordiak felt both Barrett and Talbot were capable men and could handle the job, so he was interested in supporting the winner of the board vote.
The unknown vote belonged to Commissioner Mervale Stinson.
How the final vote played out was affected by the board’s rules of procedure and Kordiak’s political canniness.
On the day that the vote was to take place, Knodt made a motion to appoint Barrett.
As chairman, Johnson was unable to second the motion and none of the other three commissioners offered to second the motion.
Stinson motioned to appoint Talbot and Fields seconded it.
The standard was to vote in order of district numbers.
Knodt, representing District 1 voted no, Johnson, representing District 2 voted no, and Fields, representing District 3 voted yes. Next came Kordiak, representing Dstrict 4.
Kordiak was still uncertain what Stinson’s final vote would be, despite the fact that it was Stinson who had made the motion to appoint Talbot.
If Kordiak voted for Talbot and Stinson voted no, then Kordiak would have voted on the losing side.
Instead he chose to hold his vote — the only time in his 32-year career that he would do this.
Stinson would hold true to his motion and voted for Talbot, which gave Kordiak that chance to break the tie and give Talbot the 3-2 vote.
The citizens of Anoka County would have their say on Talbot’s qualifications two years later when he ran on the ballot in 1962.
He was elected in a landslide — his first of many.
On Thursday, Sept. 20, the Anoka County Historical Society will honor Buster Talbot’s contributions to Anoka County’s history at the Buster Talbot Recognition Dinner at the Courtyards of Andover.
Call the historical society at 763-421-0600 for more details.
Editor’s note: Todd Mahon is the executive director of the Anoka County Historical Society.