ATLANTA — Monday, Georgia got a new insurance commissioner - John King.
He will become the state’s first Hispanic statewide constitutional officer – and serves while the man elected last yea, Jim Beck, awaits trial on fraud charges.
Governor Brian Kemp delivered a significant bit of outreach to Georgia’s Hispanic community by appointing Mexican-born John King to a lead a sometimes troubled state agency.
King is a law enforcement and military man tapped by Kemp to lead an agency that handles sometimes thorny insurance problems.
"He will root out corruption, tackle car insurance rates that are the highest in the country, and put special interests in their place," Kemp said in prepared remarks Monday prior to swearing in King.
Kemp raised eyebrows in the Hispanic community as a candidate when he ran an ad targeting "criminal illegals," saying he would use his pickup truck to take them home.
As chief of the Doraville police department, King soothed police relations with Hispanic immigrants while also targeting gangs.
Asked about the complexity of Kemp’s embrace, King changed the subject. "That's not my major concern," King said. "I have a very clear mission. The mission is to go into the insurance department and figure out and get that back on track."
Yet, King embraced the symbolism of his appointment and its important to Hispanic immigrants – and said so in his native language.
"It’s a huge responsibility because I have the honor to represent the (Hispanic) community but I also have the duty to protect the community of Georgia," King said in Spanish translated by 11Alive's Elwyn Lopez.
A Brigadier General in the US Army National Guard, King says he is undaunted by his lack of experience in the insurance industry. "This is not more challenging than running a big military organization. We change leaders all the time. And this is just an opportunity to go in, get to know the organization and learn," King said.
If Jim Beck is forced to leave office for good, King said he would not only serve out the term but would likely seek election in 2022.