A dedicated public servant and champion of the North Country.
That’s how friends and colleagues are remembering Frederick W. King Sr., of Colebrook, who died on Saturday at the age of 91.
“He certainly took public service very seriously and gave it his all,” Benoit Lamontagne, North Country industrial agent with the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said Monday. “Whether it was being a selectman in the town of Colebrook or state senator for District 1 or in the House of Representatives, he was very much in tune with the needs of the North Country and was a soldier in making sure that the North Country didn’t get tossed aside or ignored,”
King fought very hard to ensure that the region received its fair share of attention and assistance from the federal and state governments and everyone else involved, and he has a great legacy of service to his community and his state, said Lamontagne.
Born in St. Albans, Vt. and earning a degree in education, King made the North Country his home and brought his background in education and familiarity with state budgets to elected office.
A middle-of-the-road Republican known for working with members of both parties to strike compromises and consensus on a range of issues, he served three terms as a state senator, from 1994 to 2000, and three terms as a state representative, from 2002 to 2008.
During his years at the statehouse, King chaired the Senate Finance Committee and the House Finance Committee.
Locally, in addition to serving as selectman, he served on the Colebrook School Board.
At the county level, was a Coos County commissioner, county treasurer, and, at the time of his death, a member of the Coos County Planning Board.
“One of the things he said to me two years into my term as commissioner is you are the first commissioner to do his job in a long time,” said former Coos County Commissioner Rick Samson, who knew King for decades. “He said you will get discouraged, but don’t give up, whatever you do. That meant a lot to me. I depended on Fred for information, and he had a wealth of knowledge and a wealth of experience. I think he served the North Country probably better than any representative or senator we ever had. He held about every position a public servant can hold, and he was a true public servant.”
District 1 Executive Councilor Joe Kenney said King “is one of the most regarded statesmen in the state of New Hampshire for his wisdom, strength, and knowledge of issues, particularly issues that dealt with the North Country.”
In 2018, legislation passed to name the welcome center along Route 3 in Colebrook, just north of the village center, after King.
In its statement of intent, House Bill 1278 read, “Mr. King’s litany of public service to the state and the North Country is legendary. The Coos County Commissioners and the Colebrook Board of Selectmen enthusiastically endorsed the naming of the rest area after Mr. King. The naming of this very visible facility in the North Country is a fitting tribute to a citizen of the North Country who donated many years of public service to benefit his constituents and the citizens of New Hampshire.”
In terms of impact, Kenney said King is a powerhouse who is up there with the late Executive Councilor Ray Burton, who served on the council for more than three decades, and with the late Harold Burns, of Whitefield, who served for nearly three decades as a state representative and was the speaker of the House of Representatives for five of them before going on to serve in the New Hampshire Senate.
“I recall serving with him in the House,” said Kenney. “I was a junior member at the time and he was someone people looked up to for guidance and wisdom. He wasn’t wasteful with spending and was always a good steward of taxpayers’ dollars.”
When Lamontagne was working in the business world, living in Colebrook, and serving as chairman of the Coos County Economic Development Corp., King, then serving at the statehouse, reached out to him regarding the creation of a property tax abatement program for the county that allowed new businesses setting up shop in the region or existing ones that were expanding to qualify for a tax abatement in return for creating much-needed jobs.
“He worked very hard to see that through,” said Lamontagne. “It was one of the rare incentives that we had, and one of the comments he would make constantly was that the North Country needed that extra boost just to keep up with the competition from the rest of the state. He had to fight hard for it because there were folks in the southern part of the state who didn’t think it was fair. When the issue of fairness came up, he said we are in a position to need these extra things just to be on a level playing field. It passed, and was renewed a couple of times.”
The abatement was later expanded to other parts of the state, though King came up with the idea, he said.
Toward the end of his time in the House, King also helped reinstate the Coos Count Jobs Creation Tax Credit back into law, said Lamontagne.
King used to feel he’d have to fight twice as hard as his colleagues in mid- or southern Hampshire just to make his voice heard, and he exercised persistence, said Lamontagne.
“He never stopped trying, that’s for sure,” he said.
Kenney said, “When people think of icons in the North Country, they certainly think of Fred King. We’re glad he lived a long life and contributed so much.”
King and his wife, Betty, had three children, including their son, David King, who serves as administrative judge for the New Hampshire Circuit Court.