Just who is Dominic Doblo?
THERE'S barely a week goes by when Dominic Doblo doesn't have his name in the paper.
He's a man with a lot to say and he's not afraid to put his money where his mouth is.
Although the Rockhampton community resoundingly rejected his bid for mayor in 2012, Dominic Doblo remains a thorn in the side of local government and continues to fight for what he believes in.
But who is Dominic Doblo? How did he get such a thick skin? And what exactly does he stand for?
It's no secret that, in April 2005, Mr Doblo's two supermarkets went broke and 130 people lost their jobs. It's a loss that impacted him personally and impacted the city as a whole. In hindsight he says he was naïve.
"I wasn't as smart as I thought I was," he admits.
"I learned a lot about my position in the pecking order when I tried to take on Woolworths."
Doblo's had been supplying up to $200,000 every week in fruit and vegetables to Woolworths and, when the company made a national decision not to source local product any longer, it was a position the business couldn't recover from.
"I was stupid to spend that much money without a contract… I tried to compensate by increasing the supermarket side of the business, but losing that kind of turnover hurt irreparably."
He says he got a lot of flak, still does, and it made him the tough nut he is.
He also says, despite a lot of misinformation in the media, his conscience is clear; that he did everything he could to save his business and his staff.
"I made the front page of the papers five days out of six when I went broke. I missed Friday and I didn't read a paper for five years after that."
Years later, Mr Doblo re-emerged when he began calling radio station 4RO on a regular basis, usually to complain about the misuse of public money.
It's one of two issues he rests everything on.
He called under the pseudonym Harry in a Hurry and says it started as a bit of fun.
"I called myself Harry in Hurry to get things done.
"I called Michael J Bailey on 4RO and said 'do we have to put up with this rot every morning, can't you just play some music?'… It just kept going after that."
Harry's main beef, and Dominic Doblo's main beef, was governments wasting public money with no accountability.
"It's not just this council, it's every council and government," he says.
His mother had been a Rockhampton councillor, his father ran for the state seat of Rockhampton and his family were good friends with Rex Pilbeam.
Mr Doblo says his family goes back four generations in Rockhampton and were always heavily involved in the community.
He recalls his grandfather; Les Doblo, had a horse and cart to sell fruit and vegetables.
"He was a battler and a gambler with a heart of gold…if people didn't have money he'd always let them pay next week and sometimes he never got paid," Dominic says.
It was Les Doblo who first started with a little fruit shop on the edge of town.
Mr Doblo says he was a survivor and always moving around, probably because he couldn't pay the rent. In 2012, Mr Doblo decided to run for mayor.
He stood on the same platform he continues to stand on; accountability for public funds and beautifying Rockhampton.
He says if he was elected, a lot of white collar jobs in council would go and blue collar workers would be empowered to make decisions.
"A lot of them have been working for council for a long time. They don't need to make decisions, they just know what to do," Dominic says. "Their jobs are understaffed because there's too many white collar workers in the office tied up with bureaucracy having silly meetings…it's complete inefficiency."
He also planned to link Kershaw Gardens to the Botanic Gardens with a bike track as the first stage of a link from Yeppen to Yeppoon.
It's a plan that was first touted under Jim Webber's leadership and Mr Doblo insists it would be inexpensive with a lot of the tracks already there - they just need linking up.
He says it would encourage people to ride to work and benefit both locals and tourists.
"We have two magnificent gardens, and with a detour down Quay St, it has unlimited potential.
"The main entrance to the Botanic Gardens should be off Yeppen with a big sign…turn left and drive along the swamp to the gardens…imagine how many grey nomads would go in there."
"We don't need a feasibility study, that's just common sense.
"Where is the big sign that points to the second oldest Botanic Gardens and one of the best in Australia?"
Although Mr Doblo had the highest financial donations of any of the candidates and certainly the highest profile, he managed only 6% of the vote in 2012 and came a clear last on polling day.
It was his first foray into public life and he says it may well be his last.
Even without a plan to contest the next council election - his wife told him he'd be looking for a new wife if he did - he continues to invest his own money to get his message out.
During the last State of Origin match, Mr Doblo paid top dollar for an ad telling the council to put more plants in East St.
"We're in a tropical paradise and we have water. Every morning that place should be made spotless, but it's a disgrace," he said.
Mr Doblo admits again to being naïve during the mayoral campaign but says he has no real idea of what went wrong.
"I think once Margaret Strelow ran, she split the race wide open," he said.
"I think some people took me as a bit of a clown, but I tried to keep it all light- hearted.
"I grew up in the era with my father helping Rex Pilbeam with his elections…my parents were very politically inclined and a friend and supporter of Rex Pilbeam, as many people were.
"When Rex was running we had a big sign that said If You Don't Vote for Rex You Need a Bex.
"I tried to put a bit of life into my campaign, they're just dull and boring now…that's why came up with the jingle."
But the jingle just became another controversy and Mr Doblo quickly found himself dubbed the clown of the campaign by the media.
He was resourced, high profile and with the kind of ideas that gravitate with a lot of people, but still it didn't resonate.
"I did a job for a woman at Emu Park who was very intelligent and educated," he said. "She told me she didn't vote for me or Lea Taylor because we're too fat - and this was an intelligent woman. "I couldn't believe it. How can you pick what went wrong when someone says that to you?"
Mr Doblo says the number one thing he learned from his father was work, work, work. His own award-wining garden is a veritable paradise and he says, although he cares deeply for the environment, he has little time for environmental politics.
"Anyone with any bit of decency in them is for the environment, but most of these people live in concrete in Sydney or Melbourne with a green lawn and a garden, but they don't want a dam. I don't have a lot of time for them," he said.
"I've planted more trees than most of them would have seen."
His current passion is to dam the Fitzroy Gap to develop the region as the agricultural capital of Australia.
"The reason I'm pushing it is because the government says they want an agricultural corridor… and if they're serious about it, they've got to realise how much water they need.
"Those two bath tubs at Eden Bann and Rookwood are a waste of money."
Whether he's correct in what he sees as common sense remains to be determined.
And only time will tell if the community will take him seriously, or if he is destined to remain the clown.