11/07/07 — King is back in the saddle

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King is back in the saddle

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 7, 2007 1:47 PM

For much of Tuesday evening, Al King sat with his back to the election results scrolling across the bottom of a television hanging near the kitchen wall inside the Lantern Inn.

He admits he had little interest in the numbers -- that all he wanted was an official end to an election that had worn on him.

But when the other incumbents on hand read the totals off the screen just after 9 p.m., the twice-retired mayor revealed half a smile.

"(D.A. Stuart) has got 154 votes and you haven't got but 842," Mayor Pro Tempore Chuck Allen said with a wink. "He's coming for you."

Those gathered around the table shared a laugh.

It was clear that Goldsboro residents had put King back in the high-seat for another term.

The mayor was, admittedly, in a playful mood, joking with those gathered at the Ash Street restaurant about claims made by his opponent over the past few months.

"He said I'm going to walk away if I get elected and just make Chuck mayor. Now how do you suppose I would do that?" he asked. "And then he said Chuck was going to come in and fire all the city employees. That part got me as much if not more than anything. Where did he get this stuff from?

"I read that and that gets you," King added. "You look at all these lies and know they're lies, but there isn't anything you can do."

But it was not the "lies" circulated by Stuart, or the fact that he put them in print and passed them out at city functions, that got to the incumbent.

For King, it was the idea of "dirty politics" emerging in the town he has come to love that hurt so much -- and that some, if only 400, bought into it.

"This has been like nothing I ever expected to see in Goldsboro," he said. "That's gutter politics. Goldsboro is better than that."

King's wife scoffs at the notion that this election was hard on the family, that Stuart using her son as a political tool against her husband brought them down.

"I considered the source," she said.

King took her hand and had a laugh.

"Being a public official is tough," he said. "You have got to have a thick skin. People are gunning for you."

But at the end of the evening, "the lies and the rumors" meant little to the couple.

After all, the final tally answered those questions.

And with his true love by his side, King said he would have felt like a winner even if it hadn't.

"My wife told me a long time ago, she said 'There is nobody out there who can do it better than you,'" King said. "Had she not talked me into doing it in the first place, I wouldn't be sitting here tonight."

So he sat there with her, surrounded by friends and colleagues, turning his focus to the other results scrolling by.

His hope was to see as many incumbents prevail as possible.

Their victories, he said, were as important as his.

"This council is a team. I wanted us to all be together when things happened tonight. We love each other. We support each other," King said. "There is so much we have done and can do and I just don't trust anybody else to carry out what we have started."

Just then the mayor's eyes lit up.

He began talking about the Paramount Theater, Commun-ity Building, a revamped Union Station and restoration of the original City Hall -- all projects made a reality during his stint as chief executive.

The feeling he gets when he thinks about those things is just not something you walk away from, he said.

"I want to be here to see them through," King said. "You never know, you might see me right here four years from now running again."

But don't believe him when he tells you it's just about the multi-million-dollar projects he has seen come to fruition.

For Al King, Tuesday night was about something more.

"If the people in Goldsboro had chosen to elect D.A. Stuart as mayor, it would have been time for me to move. Why would I want to stay in a city that elects a guy like that?" he said. "But what this city has done to me, it has made me a believer again."

So don't expect to hear him brag.

Don't think that his latest challenger has made him rethink how to lead.

All that matters now is "the people."

And King said he will do everything in his power to stay true to the man they have seen at City Hall for the better part of the decade.

That's all he knows to be.

"I'm me, man," he said. "What you see is what you get."