By Mark Fischenich
---- — MANKATO — Serving as chairman of the Blue Earth County Board brings extra duties such as signing contracts and presiding over meetings. It brings the courtesy title of "Mr. Chairman" when staff are addressing the guy in charge. And it also brought the photographic equivalent of a "kick me" sign when Commissioner Will Purvis took over the chairmanship for 2014 on Tuesday.
A large color photograph of Purvis' pie-speckled face, complete with triumphant grin, from his victorious performance in the county fair pie-eating contest in August had been taped to the front of the chairman's desk — visible to anyone in the audience but not to the new chairman.
For the first 25 minutes of Purvis' tenure as chairman, the sparsely attended meeting proceeded uneventfully despite the practical joke. Then County Engineer Al Forsberg glanced up toward Purvis several minutes into his presentation on upcoming road and bridge projects and inexplicably — to Purvis at least — broke into gales of laughter.
Forsberg eventually recovered enough to hand the photo, which had been published in The Free Press, over to Purvis.
"Laugh if you may," he told the other board members. "But I won."
Purvis won the chairmanship five months after winning the pie-eating contest, although the board by agreement just rotates members through the job and 2014 makes it Purvis' turn.
An investigator at the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office before his 2006 election to the board, Purvis could likely track down the culprit pretty quickly but has no plans to pursue the case.
"All in good humor. All in good humor," he said later.
If Purvis does decide to lift fingerprints off the glossy photo, there's a good chance they might match those of Commissioner Mark Piepho.
Piepho, though, was admitting to nothing when asked how the photo might have gotten where it did.
"There are little elves running around here," he said.