Builder's daughter breaks ground in 'man's world'

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  • | 12:00 p.m. October 14, 2005
  • Realty Builder
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by Jean Sealey

Northeast Florida Builders Association

Trained in the medical profession, Angie Claxton did not intend to become a builder like her father Gene Claxton, founder of Gene Claxton Custom Homes. Today, however, she is president of the company and chair of the Northeast Florida Builders Association Clay Builders Council.

In the early 1970s, Jacksonville native Gene Claxton worked as a Jacksonville policeman while indulging an interest in remodeling part time. Claxton’s passion for building and remodeling soon led him to pursue it full time and in 1972 he formed Gene Claxton Custom Homes.

The company achieved a moderate level of success over the next two decades and during this time, Claxton’s oldest daughter, Angie, one of three children, graduated from Ribault High School and attended University Hospital School of Radiology. Angie Claxton successfully completed her education and worked in radiology until the 1990s.

“In the mid-1990s, Daddy considered retiring after the unexpected death of my stepmother,” Claxton said. “I decided to switch gears and careers, and I joined my father in an effort to revitalize the family business.”

She joined the company in 1996 and regrets only that she didn’t make the move sooner.

“I wish I had joined the company years ago,” Claxton said. “I love it! It was a great opportunity so I became Daddy’s apprentice. The deal I negotiated was for 20 hours per week at $10 an hour.”

In an effort to learn the ins and outs of the business and to boost her weekly wages, Claxton took on other jobs within the company.

“I started at the very bottom, picking up trash, laying sod, anything to learn about the business,” Claxton said. “In the end my work week was more like 60 hours.”

By 1999, Claxton had her contractor’s license.

“Daddy and I work very well together,” Claxton said. “Our mutual love and respect for each other and for building made working together a great experience.”

By the time Gene Claxton retired, Angie was ready to take the reins. She became president of the company and brought two of her three children into the business.

Claxton’s son, Judson Cutts, joined the company the day he graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in economics. Daughter Tracey Cutts is director of client services and Laura, her youngest, is a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Claxton’s brother, Steve, is superintendent for Gene Claxton Custom Homes and now manages the company’s homes from sheet rock to completion.

Gene Claxton Custom Homes experienced rapid growth in the mid- to late-1990s.

“We were building three or four houses each year when the business just took off,” Claxton said. “After that we were very busy building homes—initially off Hecksher Drive.

Gene Claxton Custom Homes is a preferred builder for Jacksonville Ranch Club in northern Duval County. The development features 380 lots, lakes and an equestrian center. Smithfield Plantation in North Jacksonville is a private, gated community with oversized lots, and Riverplace Office Complex is in Orange Park.

Claxton admits it was a challenge to learn the business and build a career in a traditionally male-dominated field.

“When I first started, I faced some skepticism from other builders, officials and even clients,” Claxton said. “It was a bit of a struggle at first but in the end, competence, honesty and the ability to understand and relate to many different personality types are the keys to successful and productive relationships in any industry.

“I demonstrated my willingness to learn and follow through. I asked questions. I kept my word, and I connected with my colleagues on a professional level.

“Daddy and I built a successful business. Our success earned the respect of subcontractors and other builders and a quality product speaks for itself.”

Claxton’s involvement in industry-related organizations allows her to take an active role in building industry concerns in the area.

She is the current chairwoman of the Northeast Florida Builders Association Clay Builders Council after two years of service as vice chairwoman of the council.

“These organizations encourage involvement and help keep construction industry professionals informed about government issues, regulations and codes,” Claxton said. “They also afford us the opportunity to get involved in charitable endeavors and to discuss industry issues with realtors and other professionals in social settings.”

The Clay Builders Council works with HabiClay, the Clay County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, and NEFBA Builders Care. The council conducts an annual Christmas food drive and sponsors the Clay Builders Council charity golf tournament.