Joe G. Tedder ‘87 – Tedder Collected FSC Degree Before Charting His Path

Apr 5, 2022

by FSC Staff

Many Polk County residents will recognize Joe G. Tedder as Polk County’s Tax Collector. Only a few people might know prior to becoming a county official, Joe graduated from Lakeland Senior High School and Florida Southern College (’87).

To earn his Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Joe attended FSC at night, while working full-time. After graduating, Joe worked for 10 years at Tedder, Grimsley and Company, a family CPA firm started by his father, Joe B. Tedder. Following his employment at the CPA firm, he served as a Florida State Representative from 1992 to 1996 where he authored legislation, some of which affected the education system in Florida.

According to Joe, charter schools were created in the early 1990s by a group called the Democratic Leadership Council. Before leaving the Florida House of Representatives, Joe authored, introduced, and managed the passage of the Public Charter Schools Law. His goal for that law was to provide flexibility with accountability for schools.  He wanted charter schools to be incubators for change and innovation. He felt they could provide choices for parents and students in free, public, and non-sectarian schools.

He wanted the charter schools to be a response to the increase in the number of vouchers that were being given out for private schools. Joe said Polk County did not need vouchers because it could create schools that were public, free from sectarianism, and where every child had an equal opportunity to enroll and attend.

After serving in the Florida House of Representatives, Joe was elected to be the Tax Collector for Polk County in 1997, a position he has held for more than 25 years. Though Joe never planned to work in government, his current position has an ironic tie to his family history.

“Many, many years ago, the position of Tax Collector was actually appointed by the governor,” Joe said.

In 1885, under Florida's 5th Constitution, gubernatorial appointments were restricted, and Florida's Legislature was required by law to provide for the election of “Tax Collectors” in each county, according to PolkCountyTaxes.com.

“My great-great grandfather was an individual who served on the Constitutional Revision Commission back then, and actually signed Florida’s Constitution that created the position that, 100 years later, I ran for,” Joe laughed.

Though it has been many years since he attended FSC, Joe is pleased with what he sees happening at the College. He believes FSC is an important part of the community, nurturing students who positively contribute to society after graduation. Tedder’s wife, Tracey Duff Tedder, is Associate Provost for Experiential Education and Associate Professor of Education at Florida Southern College.

“It has grown so much in providing much more interesting curricula and degrees,” he said. There’s always something new – new programs, new buildings, etc.”