- Written by Mike Martin
Are the man -- and the timing -- just right?
COLUMBIA, Mo 01/26/15 (Beat Byte) -- He's partly Town; partly Gown. A pinch of blues; a dash of jazz. One of Columbia's most hard-working and successful business people who isn't really one of "The Chamber Crowd." A little bit country; and a lotta rock and roll.
If a growing chorus of eager voices is any indication, Richard King is also a favorite for Columbia's top job: Mayor. Just the thought of the campaign slogan -- King for Mayor -- could make donors open up; campaign consultants line up; and potential rivals step out of the way.
The King of the CoMo music scene for longer than most people can remember, Richard King sold The Blue Note and its sister act, Mojo's, in November. King started The Blue Note with then-partner Phil Costello more than 34 years ago.
It's an astonishing run for any small business, let alone one that combines the long days (and nights) of the hospitality business with the political savvy of concert promotion. King may have few local peers in the human relations department, having undoubtedly dealt with some of the most difficult personality types around.
Decades into The Blue Note, King pulled off a successful second act: the Roots, Blues, and BBQ fest (RBBBQ) that quickly became -- alongside the True/False Film Festival -- a defining Columbia event both locally and nationally renowned.
In a community comprised of little groups that jealously guard their territories, RBBBQ has put King's political skills to the test time and again.
To secure venues, he's had to juggle City Hall; downtown business owners; and the various incarnations of the CID that oversees downtown politics and policy. Implementing the event is a highwire act of a different sort, from finding and hiring talent to coordinating the vast army of volunteers and staffers who do everything from setting up stages to cleaning up streets.
In a job that involves plenty of promotional expertise, Mayor King would have few equals. What's more, he would likely promote the city more in keeping with an ethos that de-emphasizes taxpayer handouts as "lures" for large, developer-centric enterprises.
King's qualifications sell themselves, so what about that special something, the charismatic ingredient that makes people want to follow the leader, both on the campaign and in the elected office? I don't know King well enough to judge that criteria, but if the number of voices I've heard over the last five years is any guide, people who do know him think he'd make one of Columbia's better all-time Mayors.
The timing also seems right. The Blue Note is in good hands, RBBBQ is well-established, and in a nod to King's character, Mojo's new owners are renaming the venue for his best friend, Columbia Daily Tribune columnist Forrest Rose. Rose died a decade ago, after regaling Columbia with his pointed, witty, and sometimes acerbic observations about politics, politicians, and power. King named the small park next to Mojo's after Rose.
Since King does not seem interested in slowing down, I expect voices calling on him to take the top job will grow louder and greater in number. The next Mayoral election is a little more than a year away.
"I just texted Richard King and told him to run for Mayor," Columbia resident Millie Lovett wrote on Facebook last week, during a discussion about a new group formed to fight crime in the downtown District.
King for Mayor? I get the feeling Forrest Rose would approve.
-- Mike Martin