U.S. Rep. Mike Pence appeared without fanfare, strode through the large bay doors of the fire station and chatted briefly with the brass.
It was about 4 p.m. on this October campaign stop when Pence walked the length of the garage, flanked by two fire engines. Nine-year-old Austin Miller asked the congressman for an autograph, as Austin’s father, Battalion Chief Ryan Miller, snapped photos.
The Columbus native took Austin’s piece of paper, lifted his right heel, bent his back, placed the paper across his right knee, signed his name and handed the paper back to Austin, rubbing the top of the boy’s head as the youth beamed at his newest treasure.
Pence, 53, knows how to handle these events with the right amount of politicking, reverence and humor, thanks to campaigning successfully for six terms in U.S. Congress — and twice more unsuccessfully. The Republican currently serves Indiana’s 6th District, which includes parts of Johnson County, as he is running for governor. Polls show he has a significant lead against his Democratic opponent, John Gregg.
Leaving the boy, Pence walked toward the garage’s northern end and engaged some of the firefighters in small talk. He asked them how long they had served and thanked the firefighters for their service and asked if they had everything they need.