With more than 970 miles of roads in Jefferson County, County Judge Dutch King has been spending a lot of time at the County Road Department since he took office Jan. 1, trying to find out what he can do to improve the condition of those roads.
“There are a lot of neglected areas in this county and I’m not going to neglect anybody,” King said while speaking to the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club on Thursday. “I’m going to reach out to all the cities in the county and find out how I can help them.”
King mentioned that he had made some changes since taking office, among them hiring retired Pine Bluff Street Department manager Jimmy O’Fallon as county road superintendent.
“I’m going to do what I think is best for Jefferson County,” he said. “I hit the ground running because there are a lot of things I need to learn.”
A former alderman and mayor of Pine Bluff, King said “county and city government are as different as daylight and dark.”
He said he planned to work closely with Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth to try and improve conditions in both the city and county.
“I’m a positive person and there are a lot of things the city and county can do by combining resources,” King said. “A lot of good things can come about. Maybe we can save some money and in some cases maybe we can make some money but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
King called on members of the Rotary Club to get involved.
“If we want to turn things around, we need to start now,” he said.
During the campaign and after taking office, King made job creation one of his top priorities. Asked by a member of the club what can be done to attract new businesses, King talked about the three-eighths cent sales tax approved by county voters for economic development.
“When that tax was passed, it gave us the opportunity to compete with Little Rock, North Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas,” King said. “With that money, we can do a lot of things we could not do before. It gives us a chance to go to the next level.”
He said he had met recently with Lou Ann Nisbett, president and chief executive of the Economic Development) Alliance for Jefferson County and said “there are some good things that are going to be happening.”
Noting that he is serving a two-year term, King said “I’m going to give the people the best job I can and after two years, it’s up to the people to decide if they want me to serve another term.”