A COMMUNITY ANCHOR
FOR KIDS & FAMILIES
HAVING A BEER WITH
ASK 30 WOMEN
WHAT IS THE MOST
YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
SERVICE BEFORE SELF
SHERIFF LANEY PREPARES FOR LIFE AFTER RETIREMENT
FREE TO A GOOD HOME
FATHERS | MR. FULL-TIME DAD
WRITTEN BY: BEN HANSON
obody told me parenthood is a path toward
enlightenment. They told me it’s expensive,
tiring and thankless. There’s a bit of truth to
both takes, but lately I’ve found myself inordinately
delighted by the unpredictable antics of my three-yearold
son, Macklin. Tomfoolery that would otherwise
inspire madness has become the highlight of my days.
I’m completely content with evenings spent lying
facedown on a living room floor that hasn’t seen a
vacuum in weeks, getting jumped on by a 40-pound
toddler. It may not be your definition of enlightenment,
but it’s as close as I’ve so far come to my own.
As we approach the holiday season, starting with
Thanksgiving, I can’t help but reflect on ‘The Good
Life’ I’m living. Each day of parenthood brings new
revelations, but while playing the part of a doughy-soft
crash pad for Macklin — future WWE star — a deep
realization burst into my awareness. Or maybe it was a
budding frontal lobe migraine caused by the repeated
blows. Either way, the thought holds true: every phase
of Mack’s young life somehow becomes my favorite.
Again, it may just be a sign of cumulative brain damage
and memory loss, but every shift in personality, every
major or minor milestone achieved, every new
word, step or stumble beguiles me. Is it possible
to fall in love with potty training? To find beauty in
bloodied knees? To embrace fits of tantramonious
rage? Why yes, it is. It is the zen of parenting — loving
your offspring so much, that (most) every moment
blossoms into a cherished memory. A few examples...
THE FIRST GIGGLE
Looking down at a newborn in your arms is tough to
beat. It’s a moment of purity, like looking out the front
window to see winter’s first blanket of unblemished
white snow greet the morning sun (unless you hate
winter, of course). But that first giggle… ah, it’s life
changing. A smile may be the first indication that your
child recognizes you, but a giggle is the first time he
really gets you. I’ve shared in thousands of giggles by
this point, but each one is my favorite.
CURIOUS ABOUT EVERYTHING
Toddlers are as enlightened as any being out there.
Why? Because they live completely in the moment.
Everything is new and mysterious, and everything is
capable of inspiring awe at a moment’s notice. If
you go along for the
them, you get the chance to
catch a whiff or two
of second- h a n d
2 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
to the park is an adventure, an
opportunity for him to discover
something new… and, through his
questioning everything around
him, for me to rediscover that
which once surely delighted
me, too. Perhaps it’s an ego trip, but
I love delivering answers to his many
EVEN POTTY TRAINING
Yes, I even find ways to love this ongoing
experience of potty training. It’s perhaps the
longest phase yet, but oh so worthy of cherishing.
Watching Macklin learn to take himself to the
bathroom, even interrupting bathtime to do so,
I’m witnessing him take a monumental step
towards independence. Sure he misses a lot, but
the pride on his face after a job sort of well done
makes the lingering smell of stale urine almost
bearable. Honestly, we’d all be a lot happier if we
could manage to be as pleased with ourselves as
Macklin is after pulling up a dry pair of undies.
With each new phase, the challenges grow and
intensify just as Mack does, but so do the rewards.
As does my optimism. When Mack was an infant,
I didn’t want anything to ever change. He was
perfect. But then, he rolled over, looked up and
smiled. Suddenly, I was in love with a whole new
version of him and everything was newly perfect.
It happens again and again and I’m thankful to be
able to trust each new challenge will also present
new gifts. It may not be true enlightenment, but
I’m thankful for a son that makes me content in
the moment, yet eager for the future. What a good
life indeed. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 3
6 • ISSUE 3
02 FATHERS / MR. FULL-TIME DAD
THANKFUL FOR EVERY PHASE
06 AWARD WINNING CUSTOM PAINTER
12 HAVING A BEER WITH
ASK 30 WOMEN
WHAT IS THE MOST DISAPPOINTING
GIFT YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?
ON THE COVER
SERVICE BEFORE SELF
SHERIFF LANEY PREPARES
FOR LIFE AFTER
A COMMUNITY ANCHOR FOR
KIDS AND FAMILIES
4 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
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urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 5
WRITTEN BY: KATIE JENISON • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
Classic cars and hot rods
aren’t new to the Fargo-
Moorhead area thanks to
clubs such as the Toppers
Car Club, which established the first
annual Toppers Car Show back in
1953. The community has come
a long way since then and custom
cars, hot rods, and bikes are getting
more love than ever before. Whether
taking in the sights beautifully
restored classic cars and hot rods
line up from Sheyenne Street to
Main Avenue or admiring them up
6 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
close at Downtown Fargo’s Coffee
& Cars, there’s no doubt classic car
owners and motorcyclists are feeling
After putting all the work into
restoring a car or bike, there’s only
one thing left to do; breathe new life
into it with an eye-catching custom
paint job. Collectors and enthusiasts
are sure to want the best of the best
and that means finding someone
that not only has the experience, but
also the passion for creating one of
a kind works of art. Mike Wanner
of Fargo-Moorhead Custom and
Collision fits that profile to a T and
it's clear auto enthusiasts agree! In
fact, there is a solid chance at least
one of the classic cars, motorcycles,
or hot rods you’ve admired was one
of his custom creations.
Wanner has been recognized for his
talents across both North Dakota
and Minnesota. His award-winning
work has been featured in several
well-known magazines including
American Iron Magazine. Taking
center stage is the recognition for
his work on motorcycles. He’s won
awards for the best paint job at shows
in Bismarck, Fargo, Jamestown, and
Fergus Falls. His designs have even
beat out hundreds of other entries at
the biggest bike show in the Midwest,
The Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show,
held in Saint Paul every year. His
paintwork has helped to edge out top
competitors to win 6 first place best
in class awards!
Growing up, Wanner never dreamed
his work would win awards, but
his upbringing and love for what he
does played a large part in where he
is today. As the son of a hot rodder
and an auto body expert, Wanner
was destined to take a path involving
cars and motorcycles. From the ripe
age of 8 years old, Wanner could be
found in the driver’s seat of old cars
his dad was working on in the shop.
He has fond memories of pretending
to drive old Mustangs and the elusive
Plymouth Super Bird.
Eventually, Wanner’s dad put him
to work and it wasn’t long before he
was taking on projects of his own.
The first was prepping and painting a
As the son of a hot rodder and
an auto body expert,
Wanner was destined to take a
path involving cars and motorcycles.
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 7
1976 H-D hardtail chopper at 16. His
reward for his hard work was a solo
ride on the very bike he painted. From
that moment on, Wanner was hooked.
Every project since the first has
brought excitement, but no two client
experiences are the same. Some clients
get in touch and have a vague idea of
what sort of paint job they want, while
others know right down to the nittygritty
detail. While he welcomes the
challenge of both, there’s something
special about the creative process
and the freedom to create something
totally new and just outside the lines of
what’s become commonplace.
One thing is certain, Wanner has a
passion for getting it right the first
time and it definitely shows. From the
start of each project, clients can expect
an open line of communication when
it comes to timelines and budgets.
Clients are encouraged to provide
their feedback throughout the design
process thanks to the pictures he
sends to ensure everyone is on the
8 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
The encouragement he received from such a young age
and the inspiration he draws from other talented painters
have had a massive impact on Wanner and what he does
today. While he can’t imagine doing anything else with his
life at this point, there was a time when he considered
a career path in coaching and teaching. The desire to
connect with young people carries over even today with
his advice to those looking to pursue their dreams; don’t be
afraid to go for it. Whether it’s picking up a basic airbrush
kit and following tutorials on YouTube or taking classes
from experts, don’t let fear and uncertainty hold you back.
It’s safe to say Wanner found his calling in life, from painting
ghoulish flames on the gas tank of a motorcycle to adding
a little glitz to a newly restored classic. No matter the job,
every opportunity to learn something new and spend his
time doing what he loves is met with enthusiasm. That’s
the mark of the good life, after all. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 9
10 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
Whiskey weather is here!
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placed in a new American oak barrel, finished in a used bourbon barrel.
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Enjoy it neat, on the rocks or perfect in your favorite whiskey cocktail.
Our Crooked Cola is uniquely its own.
CROOKED FURROW . BOURBON WHISKEY
Crooked Furrow Bourbon Whiskey is the full-bodied older brother of our Harvest Blend.
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selected after three long years for final bottling around 95 proof. Resulting in bold and
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PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR OTHER SPIRITS, PLEASE VISIT: PROOFDISTILLERS.COM
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 11
HAVING A BEER WITH | JOEL HEITKAMP
12 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
WRITTEN BY: MEGHAN FEIR • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
Joel Heitkamp is no stranger to opposition and is not easily intimidated by harsh
words and middle fingers. From his time working as a utilities manager to being
a referee, a North Dakota senator to a radio talk show host, Heitkamp has had
to grow a thick skin to ward off the slings of opposing viewpoints and the oft
accompanied anger. For Heitkamp, it just seems to be water off a golden
In his current role as the operations manager for Midwest Communications,
Heitkamp manages the on-air side of six radio stations, including KFGO,
Y94 and 740 The Fan and has collectively been in the radio industry 14
On a richly warm autumn day at Brewhalla (Drekker Brewing Company’s
newest location), I had the opportunity to pose questions no other
journalist or radio caller would bother asking the ex-senator and radio
professional. The only question that stumped him was one pertaining
to kombucha, leading to a discussion about headcheese.
“Have you ever eaten
cow tongue? You
come out to my fish
house and it’ll be an
experience. You won’t
stay long unless you
wear a gas mask, but
you can come on in.”
– Joel Heitkamp
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 13
HAVING A BEER WITH | JOEL HEITKAMP
Good Life: Who was your childhood
Joel Heitkamp: Celebrity crush…?
GL: I know.
JH: Well, it’s not going to shock you,
but Marsha Brady. I was that age. It
was Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.
GL: If you had ties to any culture that
you’re not a part of already, which
would you choose?
JH: Irish. My daughters are Irish, and
you can see it in them. It seems to me
that the Irish have the most fun. Of
course, there’s a dark history there,
and I get that. I just wish I was Irish
every St. Paddy’s Day. We’re going to
Ireland in March of next year on St.
GL: It’s not that big of a deal over
there, right? Just to Americans?
JH: It’s not. We’re going to try to
GL: Will you be voting for your sister
in the upcoming election?
JH: Still debating. She hasn’t earned
my vote yet, but we’ll see. I’m
14 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
GL: Are your wife and you extremely
similar, more like opposites, or what?
JH: You know, at the beginning I
thought we were more opposites, but
the longer we’re together, the more
I think we’re similar. We both like
sports and are very career-minded.
We both get a chance to work with a
lot of professionals. We both manage.
We like to travel. I’d say we’re really
similar, actually. And she’s a huge
Vikings fan because that would be a
deal breaker. She doesn’t like the fact
that I’m a Yankee’s fan, but she had to
get over that.
GL: So she’s more of a Twins’ fan?
JH: Oh, a huge Twins’ fan. But we
share a passionate hatred for the
Green Bay Packers. That’s a tie that
binds us eternally.
GL: What do you think about
kombucha, and have you ever held a
SCOBY in your hand?
JH: Uh. No. Are you going to tell me
what that is? A stogie? I’ve smoked
many a cigar. Is that what we’re
GL: SCOBY stands for symbiotic
culture of bacteria and yeast. The
SCOBY looks like this gross, round
piece of old deli ham, but you use it to
make kombucha, which is essentially
JH: Have you ever tried headcheese?
GL: No, but I featured it in an article.
JH: Have you ever tried blood
GL: That was also featured in the
same article, but I’ve never tried it.
JH: I’ve eaten those. I eat liver
sausage. Have you ever eaten cow
tongue? You come out to my fish
house and it’ll be an experience. You
won’t stay long unless you wear a gas
mask, but you can come on in.
GL: When did your love of headcheese
JH: We didn’t have a lot of money
growing up, so mom and dad
didn’t throw away anything. We
learned to eat liver. We learned to
eat cow tongue. Dad wasn’t that
big on headcheese. It’s just a joke I
make on air, but there was always
Braunschweiger in the fridge—what
you would call liver pâté. I act like I
eat it every day, but I haven’t eaten it
in 15 years.
GL: If you were a dog, what breed
would you be?
JH: I’d be a golden retriever.
JH: Yeah, you have to be a redhead.
Gotta be a decent size where you
can put up a fight. You don’t have
to win it, but you’ve gotta be able to
punch. Goldens are loyal. Goldens
are fun to be around, and they like
kids, plus they hunt the way I do.
They hunt hard until about noon,
and then they look for a beer.
GL: I just imagined a golden
retriever extending its paw to open
the fridge and pull out a Budweiser.
GL: Which era in history would you
choose to live during for an entire
JH: World War II because it was
truly the best generation. We make
them out to be better than they
were, don’t get me wrong. Those
boys didn’t behave that much better
than any of us, but their cause was
so good. It collectively bound them
together. My dad fought for WWII.
When he came home, if you hadn’t
been in the military you weren’t
the norm. I was always jealous of
that, that everybody served and
everybody had that to hang their hat
on. I would have loved to say I was
a part of that.
GL: What does living “the good life”
mean to you?
JH: Freedom. Everybody’s freedom
is different. You do what you want
to do when you want to do it. That’s
the good life. It doesn’t mean having
money. That’s not what it’s about at
all. Tonight it might mean hopping
on your bicycle, or, for me, hopping
on my Harley and going for a ride.
It’s about the freedom and the
mindset to do whatever you want
to do. If I want to hang around
my grandkids and go to a Vikings
game I can because I’m free. That’s
freedom to me. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 15
MOST DISAPPOINTING GIFT
WHAT IS THE MOST DISAPPOINTING GIFT YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?
We’ve all seen it, the fake smile, the awkward grin of what appears to be enthusiasm, the unconvincing ‘Thank You’. You
spent hours (or maybe minutes) looking for the perfect gift – only to find it hidden in the back of the closet. Don’t be that
guy! Avoid buying the gift that calls the junk drawer home.
The pressure is on! “What does she want? I wasn’t listening to her.
Would she like this? Maybe just a gift card or jumper cables?”
Relax gentlemen. We are here to help. The Good Life Men’s
Magazine asked 30 random women, “What is the most
disappointing gift you have received?”
Save this valuable information and avoid these gifts. We
did our part, now the rest is up to you. Good luck out there
and happy shopping. •
16 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
1. My mom got a vacuum. I have
that vacuum now.
2. Thrift store socks and slippers.
3. A box of cleaning supplies.
4. Gift cards. No thought or
emotion put into it.
5. An exercise DVD and a digital
scale that measures BMI.
6. I got a Garmin GPS from a
boyfriend. He told me it was so I
didn’t yell at him when he got lost in
7. Socks with Christmas trees - in
8. A pair of welding gloves, so I
wouldn’t burn my dainty, delicate
hands loading wood in the fireplace.
9. Candles. One is nice, but not five.
10. My husband gave me a Hershey
Kiss on a stick that resembled a
11. AN NFL BOBBLEHEAD.
12. My ex boyfriend took me to the
store, had me pick out a Christmas
present and purchase it. He then
went and purchased himself a
“present” of equal value and called
13. A CHAINSAW.
14. A donation to an art benefit on
15. 3 seasons of The Office on DVD.
I could tell they were pre-owned,
but I was still very happy with the
gift. My happiness was short-lived
when he told me that he borrowed
them from a friend, and would
appreciate my watching them as
soon as possible so that they could
16. A framed photo of the guy I was
dating. To be clear – like a massive
senior photo. Uhh…thanks.
17. A re-gifted salad spinner. They
thought I would appreciate it
because I was eating healthy.
18. A pink camouflage jacket. If
a woman wants to wear camo, it
doesn’t have to be pink. And if a
woman says she likes pink camo,
she’s lying and doesn’t want to hurt
19. SMOKE DETECTORS.
20. My mother-in-law bought me a
bed in a bag at a Family Dollar and
the dye in the sheets stained my
21. The hubs once gifted me a
black FUR dress. Yes, fur – like a
Muppet. And it didn’t fit. Thank
goodness. And the store from
which he purchased it had a no
22. An Olive Garden gift card from
my husband. Does anybody like
23. I got a 20 lb. giant blue
vase/bowl from my brother. My
sisters and I have been regifting
it for years.
24. My ex-husband booked us
a trip to Daytona Beach to see
friends. Only they were his friends
and it was at the Daytona 500 and
I hate Nascar.
25. A star map from our first date.
26. My mother-in-law decided we
are not giving each other presents
this year. We are buying a fruit
tree for poor people in some other
27. NOT GETTING A GIFT.
28. Socks. Not decorative ones.
Just plain old white six-pack of
29. A LIFE JACKET.
30. An adult size onesie.
ON THE COVER | SHERIFF PAUL LANEY
SERVICE BEFORE SELF
SHERIFF LANEY PREPARES FOR LIFE AFTER RETIREMENT
WRITTEN BY: ALEXANDRA FLOERSCH • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
You see it too often in the world
of sports – star players waiting to
throw in the towel until they’re past
their prime. But Cass County Sheriff
Paul Laney refuses to become the
quarterback that plays a couple
seasons too long at the expense of
When he announced he wouldn’t
be running for a fourth term back
in December 2017, the 52-year-old
North Dakota native was inevitably
bombarded with the same question
again and again, “Why are you
“As leaders – and especially as
elected leaders – as important as it is
to know when you're ready to do this
(job), it's as important to know when
it's time to go," he said. "I'll miss
knowing that every single day I woke
up and put on this uniform, I made a
difference. But I feel I can leave with
a sense of mission accomplished,
and then my wife and I can go on to
the next adventure.”
Come January 1, 2019, the 1984
West Fargo High School grad (and
proud Packer) will hang up his gun
belt and pursue his next adventure.
BOOTS ON THE GROUND
Enlisting in the Marine Corps in
1984, Laney immediately served
four years active duty with MSSG-
13 of the 13th Marine Expeditionary
Unit after high school.
"That was probably the best four
years of my life in the sense that I
was a young man getting paid to see
the world,” he said. “I was learning
leadership at some of the highest
levels from some of the most amazing
leaders I could’ve ever asked to learn
from. It laid a foundation for me
second to none.”
18 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
“I'll miss knowing
that every single day
I woke up and
put on this uniform,
I made a difference.”
– Paul Laney
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 19
ON THE COVER | SHERIFF PAUL LANEY
"I love people
and I thought,
better job for
me than to
for the people.”
– Paul Laney
The “lead, follow, get-out-of-the-way”
Marine philosophy was one he’d take with
"My mom said, 'I sent away a boy and a
young man came home.’ I felt that way,
too,” he said. “I came home confident,
believing I could attain whatever I
wanted to if I worked hard enough.”
Leaving the military wasn’t an easy
choice to make. Laney thrived
on the discipline, fitness and
camaraderie that all came with
being a Marine. In fact, he
contemplated making a career
of it, but in his heart, his other
childhood dream was calling.
"I tested with the (Los
Angeles Police Department). I went
through my interviews and was on
their hiring list when I decided, ‘No,
I want to do this same thing... but I
want to do it for my community," he
CLIMBING THE RANKS
Returning to the Red River Valley
in 1989, Laney was hired by the
Fargo Police Department and
quickly climbed the ranks from
patrol officer to field training officer
(FTO), gang/narcotics unit and
tactical team member. Promoted
to sergeant in 1997, he supervised
the patrol shift, FTO program and
eventually became a leader of the
Red River Valley SWAT Team. In
2002, he was named lieutenant and
served as both district and SWAT
"I had reached a point in 2006
where I had just finished my
master’s degree (in management),”
he recalled. “I was at the stage in
my career where I loved where I
was at and what I did but I wanted
to spread my wings in my own
When the Cass County sheriff
position opened up, something
"I love people and I thought, there's
no better job for me than to work
directly for the people," he said.
"The fact that I had the ability to
supervise, lead and command every
aspect of law enforcement prepared
me to take the helm of the largest
sheriff's office in the state of North
Elected to a four-year term, Laney
was sworn in as Cass County sheriff
on January 2, 2007, and easily won
re-election for a second and third
term in the years following.
A LEGACY TO LIVE BY
Looking back on 12 years as sheriff,
a flood of memories rushed through
20 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
His first glimmer of the spotlight
came in October 2007, surrounding
the Ozzy Osbourne concert. Guests
were formally invited to what they
thought was a pre-concert party,
only to find Laney and his team
were behind a sting operation with a
guest list containing only those with
active warrants out for their arrest.
Announcing 50 arrests at a press
conference the next day, the sheriff’s
office quickly caught flack from
Osbourne and his publicist. Rolling
Stone, MTV, The Telegraph UK
and other media covered the story,
encouraging both fan and hate mail
for the creative stunt.
"I think it was the first opportunity
the public really got to see me as a
leader and say, ‘This guy is different.
He's going to think outside the box.
That's who our sheriff is.’”
But that was just the beginning.
In 2008, Laney handled the first
train derailment near Page, N.D.,
and 2009 to 2011, Mother Nature
struck with vengeance, flooding the
Red River Valley.
"That’s when I believe people really
got to see my ability to command
and how service to the community
came before anything," he said.
In 2011, Laney was named the
E911 Institute’s “Government
Leader of the Year.” Following that,
awards continued to trickle in with
the National Sheriff’s Association
Ferris E. Lucas “National Sheriff
of the Year” in 2012 and the Lone
Eagle Award for “Outstanding and
Dedicated Law Enforcement in the
State of North Dakota” in 2015.
Looking back, however, his grim
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 21
ON THE COVER | SHERIFF PAUL LANEY
"It was spooky out there because
every day we wondered, is this the
day we're going to take a bullet?”
– Paul Laney
memories of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests in
2016 and 2017 seemed to overshadow all of the accolades.
Leading law enforcement efforts 15 hours a day, seven days
a week, Laney and his team received death threats for their
"That was a really scary time for our family. (Protesters) doxxed
out a picture of my home address with a picture of a bullet. It
went viral and on the dark web," he said. "It was spooky out
there because every day we wondered, is this the day we're
going to take a bullet?”
But even death threats wouldn’t stop Laney from doing a job he
was so passionate about.
"In 30 years, I've seen the best of society and the worst of
society. But I've always known that if I went about my duties
with honor, integrity and pride, I could make a difference for
22 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
good and that's what I strive to do
every day," he said.
As a bit of poetic justice, the
motivation behind Laney taking the
job in the first place is the same one
he’ll miss the most when he leaves:
"I'll miss the banter and camaraderie
– that total fulfillment knowing these
people have your back and they know
you've got theirs,” he said. “I'm not
leaving because I don't like it, and I'm
not leaving because I'm burned out.
I'm leaving because I feel it's time
– that I've done what I promised I
would do for a community I love.”
As Laney prepares to hand off the
reigns to the next Cass County sheriff,
he says the key is trusting in the men
and women of the organization and
what they bring to the table. His
motto will remain with him until
his last day as sheriff: “service and
sacrifice before self.”
When elected, “you asked the public
to give you this trust, and now you
need to give them back everything
you got, even at your own expense,”
he said. “As law enforcement officers,
we belong to the community. Some
days we have to be their guardians.
Some days we have to be their
warriors. Prepare yourself to be all
of the above.”
As his career in law enforcement
comes to an end, Laney is adamant
about giving his family the attention
they deserve, including his daughters
Danielle, 21, and Kaitlyn (Katie), 19.
"They're the ones that suffer through
this career,” he said. “They're the
ones that had to watch me run
out the door for the next critical
incident. During the pipeline protest,
I missed Katie's entire senior year of
Though it was a lot to ask of his
daughters, they never complained.
They knew the sacrifices that came
with being a cop's kid. Laney’s wife,
Patty, has also been extremely
supportive of his every move.
"She’s probably one of the biggest
reasons I've had success in the
sheriff's world,” he said. “She's been
my rock, and I can't imagine having
gone on this sheriff's adventure
At the end of the year, Laney and his
wife will head to northern Minnesota
and their new home.
“We knew years ago when we were
done with the crazy, law enforcement
life, we would settle down to a more
peaceful life. A little less life and
death and a lot more life," he said.
“I found my peace. I'm a different
person up there.”
Offered a vice president role
at TurnKey Corrections, a law
enforcement technology company,
Laney will start his new gig sometime
in January. Laney’s familiarity with
the language and network will come
in handy, but this time, he’ll witness
law enforcement from a different
LANEY'S GOOD LIFE
When time slows, Laney looks
forward to fishing for walleye and
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: PAUL LANEY
trout, snowmobiling and hiking – his
goal being to conquer the 310-mile
Superior Hiking Trail from Canada to
Duluth by the time he turns 55.
“I just love to get out in the outdoors
and take in God's beauty,” he said.
“(Patty and I) enjoy spending a lot of
time together, but when you carry two
phones and you're basically in criticalincident
ready mode at all times, you
never really decompress.”
In fact, one of his former captains,
Judy Tollefson, used to refer to him as
“hair on fire guy.”
"She said, 'Everywhere you go, you
never slow down. You're always
engaged in something,'" Laney said.
"Hopefully, I'll learn some ways to
be a little less high speed, a little less
'hair on fire guy,' and a little more
calm, cool, dad dude.”
When asked to define the good life,
Laney didn’t hesitate.
"The good life to me has been for 30
years I've woken up to a family who
loved me. I got to go to a place that
wasn't a job, it was my passion. And
every day I got to make a difference
in the community I loved. That is the
good life," he said. "As I move on to
the next adventure, I hope I can find
that same fulfillment." •
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WRITTEN BY: JON HAUSER
PHOTO BY: MELISSA DALE PHOTOGRAPHY
I am an engineer; wired to observe the realities of this
world. For 50 years I’ve witnessed this reality: men
tend to trail behind women when it comes to spiritual
intensity. I’ve seen many families where mom is active
in her faith and local church but dad isn’t; very rare
that dad is active and mom is not. Having worked with
teenagers for years, it’s common for teens to step away
from faith when dad isn’t actively engaged.
As a pastor, I have a burning desire to help men grow
spiritually. When a man grows spiritually there’s a
significant positive ripple effect in the lives of his family,
business, and neighborhood that lasts for generations.
In the Bible, God is searching: I looked for someone
among them who would build up the wall and stand
before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would
not have to destroy it, but I found no one (Ezekiel
God was looking for someone who would stay true
to Him amidst all the temptations this world offers;
someone who would fight for their spouse, children,
church, and pastor; someone quick to forgive, seek
forgiveness, and focus on unity; someone who was all
out devoted and all in surrendered to God. And God
found? No one. My prayer is that when God searches
the Red River Valley, He finds 1,000s of men who fit
In Judges Chapters 13-16, Samson was a powerful
man continually plagued with a dangerously weak
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Just like Samson, you are wired for greatness
but we must learn from his mistakes. As men,
we sometimes make great commitments to
inferior causes and it costs us dearly.
will. Samson was a miracle baby; created to help the
Israelites find freedom from the Philistines. Samson
made three vows to demonstrate his commitment to
God and God alone. He was to never drink alcohol,
touch anything dead, or cut his hair.
Just like Samson, you are wired for greatness but we
must learn from his mistakes. As men, we sometimes
make great commitments to inferior causes and it
costs us dearly. We may spend more time researching
what rifle or TV to buy than we spend reading the
Bible, building spiritual strength. There are men who
are aggressive in their work or hobbies but passive in
leading their family spiritually; men who are passionate
about their favorite sports team but have no zest for
There are three attitudes, displayed by Samson, that
make strong men weak.
Lust is when a man sees something he desires, his
emotions kick in and he must have it. And when a
man obsesses about his desire, he forgets all logic
and his values. He may lust after a woman, a career
advancement, a boat, or a challenge to conquer.
Samson went into Philistine territory and saw a
gorgeous woman ( Judges 14:1-3). He had to have her
even though he was not to intermarry with someone
who did not worship God. “I want it” makes strong men
Samson tears a young lion apart with his bare hands.
Later he passes the dead carcass and it contains a
swarm of bees and honey. He violates his vow by eating
the honey ( Judges 14:5-9). Entitlement says “I deserve
it.” I killed the lion, I haven’t had honey for months, it
looks so good…I deserve some. I’ve been working hard,
putting in long hours…I deserve to buy that boat. She
has been moody and distant lately…I deserve to explore
a romantic relationship outside of my marriage. “I
deserve it” makes strong men weak.
Samson, despite his vow, throws a bachelor keg party
( Judges 14:10). Pride says “I can handle it. Other men
have struggled with this but not me.” This jacked guy,
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uilt like a brick wall, says “I’m
strong, I can handle it” and his party
becomes a huge mistake!
This is what happens to strong,
well-intentioned men, over and
over again. God gives us great gifts,
amazing opportunities, unlimited
potential and we think: “Just one
drink, one smoke, one pill; I deserve
it, I can handle it. I want it.” And
before long that substance owns us.
“I deserve that motorcycle. It won’t
distract me.” And before long we are
drowning in debt, absent from our
family and that toy owns us. “I’m
just going to flirt. I can handle it. It’s
not a big deal if she stays overnight.
I deserve some sexual pleasure.”
At the end of Samson’s life, his
eyes are gouged out, his hair cut,
bound with chains on public display
in front of 3,000 enemies. He is
the entertainment as they laugh at
him. Lust, entitlement, and pride
can take you somewhere you don’t
EVER want to go; far deeper into
sin and destruction than you could
WITH GOD’S POWER,
NO MATTER WHERE
YOU ARE, YOU CAN
With God’s power, no matter where
you are, YOU can be changed. A
real man says “God, I want you.
Thank you for offering me a new
start. I don’t deserve anything. All I
have is a gift from you. You died for
my salvation. I’m weak. I need your
strength and guidance.” What do
you need to ask God for today? Our
enemy, satan, loves to make strong
men weak; satan sucks. God loves
to make weak men strong; God
Jon is the founding and senior
pastor at www.prairieheights.com
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LOCAL HERO | CHARISM
LOCAL HERO: CHARISM
A Community Anchor for Kids and Families
WRITTEN BY: BRITTNEY GOODMAN
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
CHARISM, pronounced “Care-ism,” is a nonprofit
organization currently centered in the Jefferson
Neighborhood of Fargo, grounded in a caring mission for
at-risk children and their families. CHARISM’s acronym
translates to “Community Homes and Resources in
Service to Many,” and current Executive Director, John
Fisher, described the idea behind the organization as
coming from the definition of “CHARISM”: “gift of
grace and strength.” To Fisher, serving with grace and
strength is what drives CHARISM.
CHARISM’s acronym translates to
“Community Homes and Resources
in Service to Many.”
CHARISM is a neighborhood support center for
underserved youth and their families, providing
programs and services to improve their quality of life.
Their programs foster neighborhood connections
as well as providing a safe and welcoming place for
Fisher, serving in the executive director’s role for the
past three years, described CHARISM’s mission as
“empowering people:” “Some kids do not feel like they
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are good enough. We want to show them the world –
that there are possibilities. We want them to know that
their story is not written and to not live as if it is. They
have the opportunity and the drive. Go for it. They can
change the story.”
CHARISM’s mission and programs provide “a
safe anchor point for people,” explained Fisher. He
continued: “And when you are connected to an anchor
you do not stay in just that one spot. You move… you
might drift one way or the other for good or bad. But
you are always tethered to something you can go back
to. We will always be there and accepting them with
strength and grace.”
Established in 1994 in Fargo by five local churches
collaborating with Community Homes, CHARISM is
not a religious organization. Fisher explained that the
churches and Community Homes all saw the need to
do more than provide housing. One of their first steps
was establishing a director for leadership and Julie
Gunkelman was the original director, serving for 21
years until her retirement in 2015. Fisher applauded
Gunkelman for serving “vigorously and with great skill”
during her tenure at CHARISM.
Three of CHARISM’s main programs are the Check
and Connect Youth Program, STEAM programming,
Check and Connect is, according to Fisher, a “brainchild
of University of Minnesota Extension” and CHARISM
currently has it implemented in Ed Clapp, Jefferson,
Fargo South, and Carl Ben schools. It has two parts:
(1) check on the students – their attendance, grades
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LOCAL HERO | CHARISM
“Some kids do not feel like they are good
enough. We want to show them the world – that
there are possibilities. We want them to know
that their story is not written and to not live as if
it is. They have the opportunity and the drive. Go
for it. They can change the story.” – John Fischer
and behavior and (2) monitor the students. CHARISM adds students
to their caseload with parents’ permission. CHARISM staff looks at
removing barriers to the student’s success, asking questions such
as “What is keeping the student from getting to school on time?”
Fisher explained: “Many things can create a barrier and contribute
to a student struggling.” James Nagbe, a Check and Connect Mentor
and Development Director, according to Fisher, has been “pivotal”
in getting Check and Connect off the ground and keeping it moving
forward and has many students in his caseload. He involves the
students, parents and teachers in the solution.
CHARISM also administers an After School STEAM (Science
Technology Engineering Arts and Math) Club serving Lewis and
Clark, Ed Clapp, Jefferson Elementary Schools and Carl Ben Middle
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CHARISM’s Grocery Assistance Program (GAP) provides
food for up to 150 families a week. On Tuesday and Thursday
afternoons and Friday mornings, CHARISM passes along
food from the Great Plains Food Bank to “people who need
it the most.” Fisher continued: “The food pantries can only
give people food on a regimented basis. That leaves gaps. We
want to fill that gap. We have some people that come to us
where we are their main food source.”
In addition to the three signature programs, CHARISM also
hosts other outreach events and runs a community garden.
CHARISM serves clients from many ethnicities including
Indian, Bhutanese, Nepalese, Vietnamese, and many West
African countries. Fisher posed, “If you want to see the
world, come to our Food Pantry or to one of our programs.”
Fisher has goals including “a pipe dream” that CHARISM
would be “doing our programming in every community
school in Cass and Clay Counties that need our help.” He
wants to grow the Check and Connect program at every
school: “We have this misconception that schools are going
to take care of everything. And they can’t. And they need help.
They need the CHARISMs of the world to walk with them
and help them.”
Fisher wants CHARISM to be a household name in our
community – a “known entity.”
Fisher said, “CHARISM is a real team. The real heroes are
on my team working with people every day. And our clientele
is for the most part very appreciative and hard-working,
looking out for their families.”
“The real heroes are on my team
working with people every day. ”
– John Fischer
Directing CHARISM is personal for Fisher, coming from a
family who struggled financially: “I remembered when they
came into our house and repossessed all of our furniture. I
have been there and so many of us have, not knowing where
the next meal is coming from. My mom could not afford
childcare so I remember playing in the employee break room
at the sewing shop where my mom was employed.” Fisher
continued: “It is tremendously personal to me, this work we
do.” Fisher remembers a turning point as a child when he
was “kicked out” of his church’s youth group for heckling.
The youth minister talked to him and said, “You are better
than this.” Fisher described it as a “turning point” in his life.
“The people we work with, many are trying to find a job and
provide for their family. We help them with interview skills,
applying for the jobs while keeping their children safe in
a good environment,” Fisher asserted. CHARISM’s afterschool
program provides quality care and a safe space from
2 pm – 6 pm. They even take some children home afterward
to give the parents the extra amount of time to work or find
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LOCAL HERO | CHARISM
CHARISM’s Over the Edge
Fisher explained, “We have people in our
community who do not have an anchor – no
family here. Most of the rest of us have extended
family to go to in times of need. They don’t have
that. They did nothing wrong; they are working
their tails off and they need a little bit of help.”
But help costs money. CHARISM has a
sliding scale for payment for their after-school
program: “It costs us $17 a day to do it and most
participants pay from $1-2 a day.”
Giving Hearts is also a big fundraiser for CHARISM. This
year, they are also thankful that FM Raise Your Spirits
selected CHARISM as its recipient for the proceeds from the
FM Raise Your Spirits event.
Fisher mentioned three specific organizations as “wonderful
partners”: United Way of Cass and Clay County, Southeast
That is where fundraising and donations come
in. Because CHARISM’s fee for service is so low,
CHARISM relies on private donations, grants
and fundraising events.
One recent event for CHARISM was the Over
the Edge fundraiser, which they have facilitated
in 2017 and 2018. People raised funds by
rappelling over the Black Building in downtown
Fargo. Fisher said, “It is just a blast. Participants
had a great time.”
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Education Cooperative and the FM Area Foundation.
Light the Way is another fundraiser – a gala-style
event where they recognize community heroes,
volunteers and the people they serve.
Fisher described CHARISM’s Executive Board as
“tremendously supportive,” including the officers
– Board Chair, Terry Stroh; Kevin Zimmer; Eddie
Scheely; and Dr. Forrest Sauer: “They put in a ton
of time for us and are great advocates.”
CHARISM currently has seven full-time staff, two
full-time volunteers, and 15-25 part-time people.
Residing in Moorhead, Fisher has been married to
and is “totally in love with” his wife Abby of twelve
years. They have “three great children,” Julia, Esther
and John. Originally from Kentucky and Tennessee,
Fisher is also a pastor and started the downtown
Fargo church, Sojourn.
When asked, “What does the good life mean
to you?” Fisher responded: “The good life
is my background, my faith and what I do
with CHARISM. It is people that are either
fulfilling or living the life that they feel
best serves themselves and those around
them, that they are intrinsically feeling
value, success and love but they are also
dispensing that love to others – showing
others that they are valued and loved.” He
continued: “I think about the most joy-filled
people I know, and they do not have a lot of
money, but they give a lot – they invest a lot
in others.” •
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