When customers approach Lucas County Clerk of Courts J. Bernie Quilter, they're as likely to ask him for a carton of cigarettes or a lottery ticket as some information about auto titles.
Mr. Quilter jokingly calls Homestead Variety — the neighborhood carryout where he moonlights two nights a week and on Saturdays — a satellite clerk's office. For a year, he has worked the cash register and stocked beer; first at a Stop 'N' Go in Maumee and now at Homestead on Seaman Road in Oregon, just a stone's throw from his home.
“I shock more people than anything,” Mr. Quilter said. “They ask me, 'Doesn't the county pay you enough?'”
Lucas County Clerk of Courts Bernie Quilter serves a customer during the night shift at Homestead Variety Store in Oregon, Ohio.
As clerk of courts, his salary is set by the state legislature at $80,807 a year. He said he picked up the side job last year to help pay for his daughter's wedding and decided to keep it.
“I just like being around people,” Mr. Quilter said.
While some people are shocked that an elected county official would be working in a carryout, those who know Mr. Quilter aren't surprised one bit.
“He sees all the people he knows. He enjoys talking to people,” said Ron Rothenbuhler, a friend and former chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party. “He talks about that job much more than he talks about his other job.”
Mr. Quilter's wife, Michelle, said she's very supportive of what she calls “Bernie's little hobby.”
“When you are in politics and when you are a public servant the way that he is — and the way that his Dad was — you are available to the people, and you meet the people when the people can be met, and a lot of times the people can be met after hours,” she said.
At the store, she said, “People can go in, see him. He can hold court.”
Oregon resident Sharon Murphy likes to buy her lottery tickets at Homestead. On a recent visit to the store, she said she was surprised the first time she saw Mr. Quilter behind the counter, but she's not passing judgment.
“I worked two jobs for a long time,” she said.
Dustin Ulrich, whose family owns Homestead Variety, said he knows that Mr. Quilter is “100 percent” overqualified for the job, but he's glad to have him behind the counter. He said he can teach anyone how to run a cash register, but people skills are another thing altogether.
“That's what I can't teach,” Mr. Ulrich said as Mr. Quilter greeted customers and engaged them in conversation. “I'd hire 10 more Bernies if they were available.”
Mr. Quilter, 58, who has a degree in political science from the University of Toledo, worked for Toledo Edison for 21 years before entering public service full time. He was elected to two terms on Oregon City Council before being appointed Lucas County Clerk of Courts in 1999 when Harry Barlos was appointed county commissioner.
He's been elected to the job five times since then, most recently in November, 2016. It was just after the 2016 election that he took on the second job he's come to love.
“I mop the floor. I stock beer. I empty the trash. That's not embarrassing to me,” Mr. Quilter said, adding that as a child, he helped out at the Broadway Fruit Market, which his grandparents, Al and Ann Sarno, ran for nearly 50 years.
Mr. Ulrich said that when his father, Tom Ulrich, found out Mr. Quilter was working at a Maumee convenience store, he offered him a job closer to his home.
“When my Dad told me, I didn't believe it, but he's great,” Mr. Ulrich said. “He can't stop moving.”
Mr. Quilter said he's having fun, and he has no plans to drop his second job. His son is now planning to get married.
The Quilters’ daughter’s wedding last month was held at Maumee Bay State Park, in the lodge named after his father, the late State Rep. Barney Quilter, who worked for more than 20 years to make the park a reality. Mr. Quilter said there was no discount for relatives.
“I think they charged me double,” he said with a laugh.