Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

He Kept Courts Steady for More Than 3 Decades

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

He Kept Courts Steady for More Than 3 Decades

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Jo Mctammany

On the first of January 1957, young George Carlisle was duly sworn and became clerk of the court and comptroller for Clay County. Also on that day his wife, Grace Carlisle, became a deputy clerk and with experienced clerk Pansey Quigley doubled the staff in the clerk's office to a total of two.

The next 32 years that Carlisle would serve in office were a runaway train ride and many say it was George's firm and constant hand on the wheel, with Grace at his shoulder, that kept Clay County from running right off the tracks. In the late 1950s when his term began, the population of the county hovered around 20,000. By the late 1980s when he retired the population exceeded 100,000.

Drastic change battered the predominantly rural county and every day brought new challenges. But George's guiding mantra was simple and he invoked it again and again, for any and every decision -- "Is it legal under Florida Law and statutes?" The answer to that question better be yes or whoever it was -- big or small -- was going to war with George Carlisle.

County commissioners might be overwhelmed by emotion or pride or power or complexity but Carlisle kept a steady eye on consequences and legalities of any action. The man responsible in the end was always the man who signed the checks and that was George Carlisle.

Through more than three decades in office he butted heads with the sheriff, the states attorney, the Florida Supreme Court and locked horns with the Clay County Commission on a regular basis. Often he didn't disagree with what the opposition was trying to do, just the illegal way they were trying to do it.

And Carlisle wasn't bashful about making his opinions known. That charming, low, everyday voice could in a flash become a thunderous roar if it looked like the commissioners were prepared to give away a piece of the farm, because to Carlisle that farm belonged to the taxpayers. …

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