Joe Paige Eyes Council Seat
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - Clearwater's March, 2010, municipal election promises more excitement than recent races, courtesy of self-described conservative Joe Paige having thrown his hat into the ring for the City Council seat being vacated by Carlen Petersen.
Although a political newcomer, Paige will be recognized by many Clearwater voters from his involvement in the city's budget hearings for the last several years. Paige is hopeful that he'll be participating from the other side of the dais next year.
"I feel that the city is on the wrong fiscal path," Paige said describing why he decided to run; "we need to get our fiscal house in order."
"I'll work for fiscal discipline by shrinking the size and scope of city government. In my opinion, the City of Clearwater government is a tightly-coiled spring that needs to be gently unwound."
With the expected decline in commercial property values next year, Paige understands that the next City Council will be required to make some tough decisions on a budget that is now projected to have a $4-million deficit.
"I will never vote to increase the millage rate. That's a promise," Paige said, "I will work to identify the proper role of government in every city department, and every department will get a haircut, some closer than others."
Paige would be willing to examine a proposal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to take over policing in the city, a proposal that Sheriff Jim Coats has claimed would save the city more than $10-million annually. "It would be short-changing the taxpayers if everything is not on the table," he said.
"I think the Clearwater Police department does an outstanding job," Paige said, "Any proposal from the Sheriff must include budget savings carved in stone with an iron-clad guarantee that existing levels of service will be maintained."
Paige is no stranger to belt-tightening. The owner of Diversified Builders, a small business that specializes in residential remodeling, Paige has seen a decline in business during the current recession, and was forced to reduce employment from five people to two.
Paige moved to Florida from his native Wisconsin in 1980, and worked in aircraft and automobile maintenance businesses as a certified mechanic. His residential remodeling business started in 1990, having grown out of his experience in the 1980's with buying homes, remodeling them and selling them for a profit.
"I think I offer a new perspective. I'm not a government bureaucrat. I'm not a life-long government employee. I'm not a slip and fall trial lawyer. I'm not an MBA. But we've seen what the attorneys and MBA's have done so far, and I think the citizens are ready to give someone with common sense a chance," Paige said.
Paige, 52, resides in the Montclair Lakes Estates neighborhood with his wife and college-age son.
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