Summit County’s ‘Joe the Plumber’ stays out of politiics |

Summit County’s ‘Joe the Plumber’ stays out of politiics

Ashley Dickson
Summit County correspondent
Summit County, CO colorado
Eric Drummond/Summit DailyJoe Welk packs up his tools in his Countywide Plumbing and Heating truck recently after fixing a boiler in Frisco, Colorado.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” The nickname has become inescapable, even in Summit County, Colorado.

During the final presidential debate on Oct. 11, both Barack Obama and John McCain frequently mentioned one figure ” “Joe the Plumber” ” as the representation of the aspiring middle class.

Since then, plumbers named Joe across the country have been placed in the spotlight as the new working- man’s hero, including Summit County’s own Joe Welk.

“I have had all kinds of customers bring it up, saying things like ‘Oh you’re ‘Joe the Plumber,’ how funny,'” Welk said. “But honestly, I don’t really relate to him.”

For starters, unlike the original “Joe the Plumber” ” Ohio native Samuel “Joe” Wurzelbacher ” Welk has been a licensed plumber for some eight years.

In 2005, Welk partnered with his father, Mike, to start Countywide Plumbing and Heating, Inc., a Silverthorne-based company specializing in boiler repairs and water- heater services.

“The other Joe was looking to buy a plumbing company and I actually own one,” Welk said. “So, our business concerns are a little different.”

After the final presidential debate, McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin frequently repeated the charge in their campaign speeches that “Joe the Plumber” would pay higher taxes under Obama’s plan.

Welk said that, as a small business owner, the carefully crafted campaign ploy didn’t sway him one way or the other in terms of who he would like to see take the seat in the White House.

“To be honest, I’m not voting at all. I like to stay neutral,” Welk said. “I know no matter who goes into office I will still have to pay taxes, so I’m not jumping on any bandwagons.”

Welk prefers not to discuss politics, claiming that these days “no one can ever have a civil conversation about either of the candidates.”

With election day right around the corner, candidates are pulling out all the stops, and in an effort to capitalize on the “Joe the plumber” media hype, McCain has enlisted Wurzelbacher to help him on the campaign trail.

“It seems like he is really extending his 15 minutes,” Welk said with a laugh. “And it seems like McCain is just using (Wurzelbacher) for his own gain.”

As opposed to his plumbing counterpart, Welk is trying to keep a low profile despite his connection to one of the most highly anticipated elections in recent history.

“I don’t mind being compared to the other Joe really, and I see that we have some similarities,” Welk said. “We’re both working hard to build honest companies that take care of its employees. We both probably won’t see much in Social Security so we have to build what we can to take care of ourselves.”

Having tapped into his life savings to start his plumbing business, Welk remains committed to his “working-man values” as he continues to provide for his family while saving for retirement.

“I’m just ready for this election to be over,” Welk said. “The smear campaigns on television and the cheap ploys… that all gets so old.”

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