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A King swan song

City’s popular mayor retires
By: Don Chaddock, The Telegraph
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For Folsom City Councilman Eric King, his retirement from government doesn’t mean his civic work is done. King took office in 2001, a time he describes as “challenging,” and he’s leaving just as the city tries to grapple with its next big hurdle – the economy. On a rainy day, one of his last as the mayor of Folsom, he sat in the mayor’s office and discussed some of his proudest moments and what he wishes he’d done differently. “We had a lot of challenges at the time, which is the reason I ran,” he said. “The sewer was just the most visible. We had issues with the prison we ran, the affordable housing lawsuit and the closing of the dam road. The first four years were really hard.” King said once those issues were resolved, the City Council focused on making the town better. “The second four years were about improvements rather than fixing things,” he said. He said the council is faced with a big challenge now and it reminds him of what they faced eight years ago. “We’re at least starting with a stable financial footing,” he said, regarding the announcement the city is facing an $8.4 million deficit by June 30, 2009. “Since we were proactive in restructuring employee benefits and retirement packages, we’re able to more successfully deal with the reduction in sales tax. That’s essentially what it is, but it is significant.” One thing he wishes he’d handled differently is the amount of land the city is trying to add to its sphere of influence (SOI) and annex south of U.S. Highway 50. “There is one thing I wish we’d done with the SOI – reserve more land for larger businesses, like Intel. Those large businesses help buffer the city in down times,” he said. “I’m becoming vocal about the issue now. Hopefully, there will be support for that concept as it goes through the next phase.” He spoke highly of his fellow council members, saying that while they sometimes disagreed, they still managed to accomplish their goals. “When you work together and listen, I would say nearly all of the decisions of the council have been good – even when I was of the opposing view,” he said. As he looks back at his eight years on the council, he said he’s proud of what he and his fellow council members built. “One of the key responsibilities of the city council is hiring the city manager and building a solid city staff. I think we’ve done that. At the end of the day, we’re only setting policy and if they’re not top-notch, nothing good happens,” King said. He said the new bridge, Historic Folsom revitalization project, Mercy Hospital emergency room expansion, new and renovated school facilities and the library are some of accomplishments of which the City Council can be proud. His plans now include trying to figure out what to do with his newfound spare time. “I haven’t set any specific plans yet,” he said. “I plan to be very involved in the community.” Some of the city staff will obviously miss King. Sue Ryan, Public Information Officer, said she’s proud to have had the opportunity to work with him. “Like many city employees, I have tremendous respect and admiration for Eric and will miss working with him,” Ryan said. “He is an intelligent and skilled leader, as well as a humble individual who is very committed to serving the Folsom community.” Folsom Fire Chief Dan Haverty was grateful that King and the council placed an emphasis on public safety. “As the City’s Fire Chief, I have been fortunate to have a mayor who is so supportive of public safety and disaster preparedness both at the city and community level,” he said. “I will miss his wonderful leadership and support.” City Community Development Director David E. Miller said he’s only worked with King for a few years, but quickly learned how committed King was to Folsom. “Eric King ... looked out for the economic well-being of the community while being very conscious of the quality of design and development that is the trademark of Folsom,” he said. “He has a knack for getting to the bottom line and demonstrating a great sense of fair play and balance in reaching decisions that are not always easy to make.” Robert Goss, director for the Parks and Recreation Department, acknowledged how much King personally did for the community. “I appreciated Eric’s ... consistent community-mindedness; particularly if a community group was willing to help achieve a goal, Eric advocated the city assist and facilitate achieving it,” Goss said. “He would often volunteer his own time to help move an issue along.” Incoming City Councilman Ernie Sheldon said he wouldn’t have run for the council if King was going to seeking re-election. “Eric would (have been) too tough to beat,” he said. Sheldon and re-elected Jeff Starsky will be sworn in on Monday, Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. For King, Folsom is the best place to call home and he’s proud that so many across the nation think the same thing. “We’ve emphasized public safety in both police and fire,” he said. “We’ve been recognized (nationally) as one of the top 25 places to live. That’s very satisfying.”