12/31/06 — Mayor not yet sure if he will seek re-election

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Mayor not yet sure if he will seek re-election

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 31, 2006 2:05 AM

His golf game isn't what it used to be.

The classic cars in his collection don't purr like they once did.

But for Goldsboro Mayor Al King, serving the citizens of the Wayne County seat has taken priority over quick rounds on the municipal course and solo drives to Wilmington for lunch -- and that's "OK."

As a new year approaches, one in which he will have to decide whether or not to run for re-election, the twice-retired King talked about what keeps him coming back to that desk inside City Hall -- the projects, progress and, of course, the people.

"I can tell you without hesitation, without reservation, 2006 was the most active year we've had in Goldsboro," he said. "And that makes me excited."

King characterized the past year as "absolutely awesome," and said plans for a new community building and a revamped Stoney Creek Park, the millions of dollars in investment made downtown and David Weil's Paramount dream might ultimately inspire him to run for office again in November.

"2006 set the foundation upon which we'll move for the next 20 years," King said. "And it's a strong foundation."

Completion of the new City Hall facility was an integral part of that process, he added.

"When we decided to invest in this building, we went out and did it and the morale of our employees went through the roof," King said. "The look on their faces when I talk to them about this building, it's unbelievable. "They tell me, 'I can't wait to come to work every day.'"

Keeping your employees happy makes progress possible, he added. But more importantly, construction of the building set a new standard for the downtown area and its surrounding neighborhoods.

"If you don't take care of your downtown, if it dies, your city dies," King said. "I don't think a lot of people understand that."

Once the building was completed, members of the City Council set their sights on more improvements along Center Street and beyond.

The group adopted Downtown Goldsboro Devel-opment Corporation executive director Julie Thompson's Comprehensive Historic Neighborhood Revitalization Plan and hired urban designer Allison Platt to compile a downtown master plan -- both huge steps in ensuring a bright future for their generation's children and grandchildren, King said.

"Goldsboro has never done anything like this before and it's not going to happen overnight," he said. "But in five years, you'll start seeing results. Then in 10 years, you'll see some more. In 15, you won't know this downtown."

The past year also saw the council make a commitment to upgrading vital technology, allowing Goldsboro to catch up with North Carolina counties "years ahead of us," King added.

"We were well-behind the curve," he said. "This council decided it was prepared to spend whatever it takes to get state-of-the-art equipment for our departments."

And then there was David Weil's plan to reconstruct the Paramount Theater, King said.

"I, and the citizens of Goldsboro, owe a lot to David Weil," he said. "When some people said we should just bag the idea of rebuilding the theater, he called me and said, 'Mayor, if you'll allow me to, I can do it.'"

King expects the facility to be open by late-October.

"I think the public will fall in love with it," he said. "We need to continue our commitment to improving the quality of life for everyone in this city. Amenities like the Paramount accomplish that."

And while millions have been and will be spent to revamp the downtown, King said the majority of those he has encountered are in favor of bringing Goldsboro into the 21st century.

Still, he acknowledged that not everyone is in favor of progress.

"There are people who think, 'What are they doing? Why a new Paramount? Why new sidewalks? Why are they going to put a park in an area that floods?'" King said. "People who think those are bad ideas, I'll have to respectfully disagree with them. There's always that 5 percent. I don't care what you do, they won't like it."

But no one can argue that progress has been made, he added. And that is why citizens might ultimately see Al King on the ballot for mayor again in November.

"I can look at the things we've accomplished in this city over the past year and say, 'Wow,'" King said. "And then I ask myself, 'Why do we need government? Why am I here? Well, you need government to do things for people they can't do for themselves. If I don't do that, who the hell needs me?"

And if that day ever comes, he will be content with putting down the gavel and picking up his clubs and keys.

"I think I'll know when it hits me, and it hasn't hit me yet," King said. "It hasn't said, 'It's time to go. I would hate to walk away from this team I have now. I think about that every now and then."