While Jefferson County Judge-elect Dutch King has not yet gotten used to being called “judge,” he admitted Friday that the title “sounded good.”
“I never took anything for granted and I ran a long uphill battle but I’m thoroughly blessed to be in the position I’m in and it’s an honor to be the county judge-elect,” King said.
A former mayor of Pine Bluff and member of the city council, Democrat King defeated Republican Justice of the Peace Ted Harden just over a week ago. Harden, also ran for re-election as a justice of the peace and won another two-year term on the quorum court.
During his campaign, King made economic development his top priority and now that he is preparing to take office Jan. 1, that’s still his top priority.
“I’m going to do everything I can to bring good jobs to this county,” King said. “I’m going to work with the (Economic Development) Alliance, the tax board and everybody else I can work with to bring good jobs to the county,” King said. “I want to be involved and speak for the county on improving the economic situation in the county.”
He said he is just beginning to learn how many different areas the county judge is involved in, and how many different hats he has to wear.
“There’s so much to the position but I’ve got a little time to learn about it before I take office,” King said.
Budget hearings for the 2013 budget for County General and the County Road Department will be held Nov. 27 and King will be involved in those hearings.
Revenue projections from County Treasurer Elizabeth Rinchuso have indicated that the county revenue could be down as much as $2 million from this year and King said those numbers mean the county will have to be very careful in how they spend money.
“We’ve got to be sure that we don’t put ourselves in a bind we can’t work our way out of,” he said.
King also acknowledged that a number of agencies and individuals, both inside and outside the county, will be wanting a share of the revenue, and said “I will listen to every one of them.”
“You can’t get blood out of a turnip so we’re going to try and get the best bang for the buck and try and reach out and touch as many people as we can with what we’ve got,” King said.
He said he has already heard from a number of people wanting to talk about county roads.
“I wish I could tell them we’re gong to fix all the roads but we’re going to have to look at our resources and see what we can do,” King said. “We’re going to have to prioritize and and try to do as many as we possibly can.”
On another subject, King said that he has not yet decided on his staff for next year, despite rumors that those decisions have been made.
“I haven’t talked to anybody yet, “he said. “I’ve got some ideas but I’m going to go through a thorough process in making my selections.”
King also said he was looking forward to taking office.
“It’s going to be a very interesting first year,” he said.