Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At public meetings, Clearwater contractor urges a conservative view

CLEARWATER — At a public hearing every few months, a man from Clearwater with a wicked talent for cryptic cuts rises to the lectern.

Whether Joe Paige, 52, is taking on the Clearwater Council, the Pinellas County Commission or most recently, Tampa Bay Water, he leaves no doubt about where he stands.

He's a conservative.

"Joe is remarkably consistent," said Clearwater Vice Mayor Paul F. Gibson.

Paige's message may be tempered with humor, but his viewpoint is forged in steel.

"With a conservative philosophy, you view everything through the prism of conservatism," he said. "That way these decisions become a lot more clear."

When he sees taxes increasing or tax money swirling down the drain, he speaks up.

"I'm a pretty vanilla guy who just kind of got fed up with the direction that our country is going in," Paige said. "I'm not vindictive and I'm not malicious, either.

"I get my point across with a gentle wrap on the knuckles."

• • •

Paige got his turn of a colorful phrase from his mother, he says, if not his politics.

His parents, the late John and Jean Paige, ran a resort on a small lake in Wisconsin. He grew up ice fishing and riding a snowmobile in winter, swimming and water-skiing in summer. "I got to be on vacation all year long," he said.

He enlisted in the Air Force after high school and worked as a jet mechanic.

"I served six years in the Air Force defending our country while my peers attended college," he said.

His views diverged from those of his parents.

"My parents were both rock-rib Democrats, but I saw how hard they had to work to pay their taxes and it kind of sunk in," he said. "Hard work is essential, but taxes are too high."

Now he's a residential contractor who specializes in remodeling and says he loves to get up each day and go to work. Off the lectern, he's a surprisingly milder guy, prone to starting or ending his sentences with your first name.

He lives in Clearwater with wife Mary Jo Paige, a Realtor. He says she disagrees with his viewpoint sometimes, but that's okay. He likes listening to different arguments and searching for the logic that will shut them down.

"She's a lot smarter than I am," he said. "It's all relative. It's all who you talk to."

No matter your bent, talk with him long enough and he may tell you there's a conservative in you "screaming to get out."

• • •

Paige's philosophy is broad enough to encompass all levels of government and public concerns from taxes and property rights to how to help homeless people.

"Every person has value; every person has worth," he said. "So every person can contribute. But we do need to help the neediest among us. That's the start of the conservative philosophy right there."

Help homeless people find their talents and build on them, he said, but don't enslave them by making them rely on the government for everything.

"Conservatism empowers people," he said. "It's what you have in you, not what you can take from your neighbor that's going to make you successful."

Once Paige starts talking about Clearwater, he rails about the purchase of the Royalty Theatre, now the Capitol Theatre; gold-plated benefits for city employees; dog parks; and last year's property tax rate increase.

"I guarantee you, Clearwater is going to try to raise the millage rate again," he said. "This economy has us on our knees. People don't have the money."

The city plays a shell game, he says.

"When property values go down, they inch up the millage rate so that the net result is a lower tax bill," he said. "Proportionately, you are still paying more."

He said he lit into the City Council at two budget hearings and some council members gave him a chilly reception.

He recalls that Mayor Frank Hibbard once told him he could disagree without being disagreeable. The next time he spoke before the council, Paige replied, "It's nothing personal, Mr. Mayor. We just can't afford it."

Paige said Vice Mayor Gibson's views may be the closest to his on the council.

"He once addressed the Clearwater City Council and stated that we were comprised of two liberals and three socialists," Gibson said. "He declined to tell us who were the liberals and who were the socialists."

Gibson said last year's millage rate increase was minute, and it's too soon to say about next year.

"The real way to measure what's going on is to look at the spending level," Gibson said. "Our spending level went down last year and in my opinion, it's going to go down this year."

The County Commission gets a softer glove when Paige puts up his dukes.

Commissioners greet him warmly when he rises to the stand. Former Commissioner Bob Stewart once complimented his use of humor. Paige said thanks, but he hoped the humor didn't distract from his message.

"They agree with some of the things I'm saying, but they wouldn't dare say it themselves," he said. "I can see the nods."

Paige is there to offer some insight and his ideas, Commissioner Karen Seel said. She may not agree with him, but she said she likes the way he presents himself: well-spoken and respectful.

"I like hearing his perspective," she said. "Sometimes, he has an out-of-the-box idea. I'm always open to hearing what someone has to say, because it can change my perspective."

Paige has been considering a run for the Clearwater City Council, he said, campaigning against those who think government is a candy store.

"I don't know how many people think like me," he said. "I have the feeling there are a lot."

He already has a slogan: "Nothing for everyone."

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at blackwellt@verizon.net.

Joe Paige speaks:

On his views: "People might think I'm controversial, but I'm trying to draw the debate to the center. And that's usually where the answer lies."

On national government: "The less they do the better. When I hear there's a stalemate in Washington, that's the best situation I can have. There are too many laws already."

On Dunedin's purchase of the Weaver property for a park: "The people have no right to a waterfront view (whether purchased with grants or not). Through a conservative prism, you say no. … It's wrong to put your hand in your neighbor's pocket and take money that he could use to put food on his table."

On the Brooker Creek Preserve: "They (county commissioners) used the taxpayers' money to buy it and then they used the taxpayers' money to build a fence around it to keep them out. What it boils down to: I'm tired of them being so generous with my money."

To the board of Tampa Bay Water: "You will leave here today and return to your member governments where you sit on the dais and tout 'quality of life issues' like dog parks and libraries and flowers in the roadway median. That may be your idea of quality of life, but mine would include such things as not drinking recycled toilet water and being able to wash my car when I so choose."

At public meetings, Clearwater contractor urges a conservative view 07/08/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 8:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pro Bowl returning to Orlando in 2018

    Bucs

    ORLANDO — The Pro Bowl will return to Orlando in 2018 for the second straight year.

    Bucs  wide receiver Mike Evans runs a route as Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. defends during the first quarter of the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in January at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Plan your weekend: Memorial Day, Sunset Music Fest, comic Pablo Francisco, sci-fi writer Jeff VanderMeer

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    Holiday

    Memorial Day: Monday is the day to honor those who died serving their country, and the Bay Pines VA Memorial Day Ceremony will have Fox 13 anchor Alcides Segui as emcee, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and musical performances starting at 10 a.m. at 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., St. …

    GULF SHORES, AL - MAY 20:  Diplo of Major Lazer performs at the Surf Stage during 2017 Hangout Music Festival on May 20, 2017 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Hangout Music Festival) 700050769
  3. For starters: Rays looking for runs and a win

    Blogs

     

  4. United Airlines CEO to investors: We'll be more focused on customers

    Airlines

    CHICAGO — The CEO of United Airlines assured shareholders Wednesday that the company is doing all it can to be more customer-friendly since video surfaced of a passenger being violently ejected from a plane last month.

    Chicago Police arrest protesters after they sat down in a busy street blocking traffic outside a United Airlines shareholders meeting Wednesday, in downtown Chicago. The people who were arrested were protesting the low pay of employees of companies that provide meals and other services for United Airlines at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
[Associated Press]
  5. 6 essential things you'll need before going to a theme park this summer

    Florida

    With Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer, we're back with a new a guide to what's new or noteworthy in Central Florida attractions.