'Joe the Plumber' Isn’t Licensed

Published on
by
the Toledo Blade (Ohio)

'Joe the Plumber' Isn’t Licensed

by
Larry Vellequette and Tom Troy

Joe 'the Plumber' Wurzelbacher views the debate from his Springfield Township home. (Blade Photo/Lori King)

"Joe the Plumber" isn't a plumber - at least not a licensed one, or a registered one.

A check of state and local licensing agencies in Ohio and Michigan shows no plumbing licenses under Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher's name, or even misspellings of his name.

Last night, his name, "Joe the Plumber," came up about two dozen times in the debate between Mr. Obama and Republican nominee John McCain.

Sine last night Mr. Wurzelbacher who lives alone with his 13-year-old son has been besieged with local and national news media, willingly granting interviews.

Mr. Wurzelbacher told reporters Thursday morning that he worked for Newell Plumbing & Heating Co., a small local firm whose business addresses flow back to several residential homes, including one on Talmadge Road in Ottawa Hills.

According to Lucas County Building Inspection records, A. W. Newell Corp. does maintain a state plumbing license, and one with the City of Toledo, but would not be allowed to work in Lucas County outside of Toledo without a county license.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he works under Al Newell's license, but according to Ohio building regulations, he must maintain his own license to do plumbing work.

He is also not registered to operate as a plumber in Ohio, which means he's not a plumber.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was hired by Mr. Newell six years ago and that the possibility of him eventually buying the company was discussed during his job interview.

He said it's his understanding he can work under Mr. Newell's license as long as the licensed contractor works on the same site.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he is working on taking the Ohio plumbing contractors' license test.

Mr. Wulzerbacher's notoriety has raised the ire of Tom Joseph, business manager for Local 50 of the United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Service Mechanics, who claimed that Mr. Wulzerbacher didn't undergo any apprenticeship training.

"When you have guys going out there with no training whatsoever, it's a little disreputable to start with," Mr. Joseph said. "We're the real Joe the Plumber."

Mr. Joseph said Mr. Wulzerbacher could only legally work in the townships, but not in any municipality in Lucas County or elsewhere in the country.

"This individual has got no schooling, no licenses, he's never been to a training program, union or non-union, in the United States of America," Mr. Joseph said.

The association has endorsed Barack Obama, according to Mr. Joseph.

Questions were raised Thursday morning whether Mr. Wurzelbacher is a registered voter.

Linda Howe, executive director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said a Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher, whose address and age match Joe the Plumber's, registered in Lucas County on Sept. 10, 1992. He voted in his first primary on March 4 of this year, registering as a Republican.

Ms. Howe said that the name may be misspelled in the database.

Mr. Wurzelbacher, 34, acknowledged during an interview at his home late Thursday morning that he knows he's "a flash in the pan," after his fame spread for an impromptu debate he had in front of his Springfield Township home with Mr. Obama last Sunday.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he objects to Mr. Obama's plans to raise income taxes on incomes above $250,000. He said he makes no where near that much money but he would not say how much he makes or if he ever expects to make $250,000. Court records from a divorce show Mr. Wurzelbacher made $40,000 in 2006.

He said, "Is it right to take someone's money because they work a little harder? It's taking away from someone's hard work."

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he disagrees with the idea of people being taxed at a higher rate because they earn more.

"They're going to take more of your money because you've been more successful," he said.

In December, 2007, the Ohio Department of Taxation placed a lien against him because $1,183 in personal property taxes had not been paid, but there has been no action in the case since it was filed.

Mr. Wurzelbacher was playing football in his front yard with his son, Joey, on Sunday afternoon when Mr. Obama made an unscheduled stop to go door to door greeting voters and asking for their support.

In his conversation with Mr. Wurzelbacher, Mr. Obama tried to justify his plan tax breaks to 95 percent of Americans and raise taxes on incomes above $250,000.

Mr. Obama said his plan would improve the economy for other people trying to get a start in small business, and "spread the wealth."

The phrase was quickly picked up by conservative bloggers and commentators saying it reveals a desire to redistributed wealth on the part of Mr. Obama.

During that same conversation, Mr. Wurzelbacher advocated a flat tax to Mr. Obama under which everyone would pay the same rate of tax which was a feature of Mike Huckabee's unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination this year.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was surprised by the spread the wealth phrase.

"That's a pretty socialist comment. Two-fifty ($250,000) is his number now. When is it going to be one fifty ($150,000), when it's going to be one hundred ($100,000)?"

He continued: "If you believe him, I would be receiving his tax cut," adding that he would not want the tax cut.

He won't say who he will vote for on Nov. 4, but did say he likes Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

He said he was born in the Toledo area, lived until he was 13 in the Florida Panhandle area, went to Springfield High School, and then entered the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at an Air Force base in Alaska from 1992 until 1995. He said he was honorably discharged.

Mr. Wurzelbacher also said he lived in Arizona from 1997 until 2000.

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