After spending four years as Jefferson County judge, Dutch King will leave office Sunday but said he is not through with politics.
“If I can keep my health, I will run again,” King said Wednesday. “I enjoy being in a position to help people.”
King was defeated by Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV, who will take office Sunday, in the 2016 Democratic Party runoff.
A former member of the Pine Bluff City Council and mayor of Pine Bluff, King was elected after former County Judge Mike Holcomb sought a seat in the Arkansas General Assembly.
“My first day in office the treasurer told me we were facing a $2 million deficit,” King said. “I had no idea what I was stepping into, but through a lot of hard work and dedication from a lot of people, we were able to turn it around … we’re better off now that we were in 2013.”
King added: “At the end of that first year, we had a $1 million surplus and at the end of this year, it will be a $2 million surplus. We’re heading in the right direction.”
King said one of his primary jobs as county judge was to ensure that the county roads were taken care of, which meant traveling thousands of miles over each road to inspect them during his administration.
“When we took over, we had four to $500,000 in the road fund, and the new county judge will start off with $1.2 million,” King said.
Additionally, King said that when he took office, the road department had very little equipment or tools to work with.
“We have probably spent $2 million to upgrade the equipment,” King said. “We had three Mack trucks that had 600,000 miles on them, and we traded them in for three Mack trucks that had 300,000 miles on them. Those trucks are still running and still being used. We still need a lot more equipment, but we’re a lot better off than we were.”
King also placed a major emphasis on recycling during his four years in office and said he hopes when Wilkins takes over, that emphasis will continue.
“We took a program that was in its infancy and raised it up, and there have been improvements every year,” he said. “We’re picking up cardboard now at a lot of different locations. We opened up the new recycling center and the people love it. They can drive right in and never have to get out of their cars. We’re even getting people from other counties who are coming here to drop off items.”
King admitted that the county’s revenue has been down for the past several years, which he attributed to a declining tax base as more and more people move out.
“We’re like any business,” he said. “It takes money to operate, and we get our money from taxes. We can’t raise rates so we’ve basically been operating on the same money for the past 10 years, and that’s alarming.”
He said the last tax increase approved by voters — other than the library millage approved in November — was the one-cent increase in 2011, with five-eights of a cent going to the City of Pine Bluff and the remaining three-eights cent going to economic development.
“The county didn’t get anything out of that,” King said. “We had a solution, but they [elected officials] wouldn’t listen to me.”
That solution was not to fill some jobs that became vacant until revenues increased.
“Although we had a hiring freeze, we had one office that were supposed to have nine or so people now have about 14-15,” King said. “The figures speak for them self.”
About his plan to run again, King said, “I care about helping people. and when the public goes to vote, they should vote for people who care about other people and not because of the color of their skin.”
As for his immediate future, King said he is going back to work.
“I’ve owned Arkansas Marketers since 1981, and in the four years I’ve been gone, the business has taken a big hit. It’s all about relationships, and I’m going to hit the road running and see if I can build it back.”