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By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY – The first time someone called Mike Lopez "AC Mike," he admitted he didn't know how the take it.
For several years before he became an award-winning radio broadcaster, he had been posting on social media about the wonders of Atlantic City from the early morning dawns to the great restaurants and big-city entertainment. Out of the blue, about 2015, someone recognized him on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and it happened.
"I remember one day sitting with a friend and some gentleman asked me say, 'Hey, AC Mike, where can I go get this?'" Lopez recalled to Front Runner New Jersey recently. "I turned to my friend and said, 'Is this guy joking with me, calling me AC Mike.' My friend immediately said, 'No, that's what you do." So ever since then, it kind of stuck. In my radio show and communications that just kind of came from that."
Now, whether on his radio show on WOND-AM-FM Longport Media, his television show or out in the public, Lopez is one of the most recognized faces and voices in Atlantic City, touting the virtues of the resort town every chance he gets. For the Atlantic County native who grew up in Mullica Township, the feelings are genuine.
"I don't mean to sound corny, but this is where it is," Lopez said. "This has always been one of those places for me. Listen, I understand that we have our problems. I'm not naïve to that. But I also I love the diversity, the ethnicity of this city and all sorts of things."
Growing up in a family of eight brothers and sisters, Lopez fondly remembers being with his parents and other family members out in Atlantic City. Remembering seeing his parents walk hand-in-hand down the city's internationally known boardwalk always brings back a positive sense of nostalgia for him.
"That always struck me and I would say I know we were family but thinking it was Atlantic City where my mother and father got a chance to reconnect after all of us left the house and they were able to concentrate on each other."
Lopez's online and media persona are part of his "second act." The term "second act" has become popular over the past decade with many people leaving long-standing jobs to follow a passion or new career.
For Lopez, he spent 25 years at the Department of Corrections in Atlantic County and had never worked in the media before. After retiring, it took technology, as in social media, and a nudge from a relative to create what is now AC Mike.
"In 2012, one holiday, one of my nephews said, 'Uncle Mike, I think that you should go on social media,'" Lopez said. "I was like, I don't want to do that. I didn't know much about it, you know. I heard that it was too personal and people arguing this and that, even in 2012.
"He said, 'Just share what you do. You're always taking us to concerts and shows and community events and stuff like that.' One day, I just got on my bike and took a ride down the Boardwalk and stopped at a gardening space. Every day I would just do that sort of thing."
Before Lopez knew it, he had developed a small loyal following on social media. He said he saw it as a small way to give back to a community he loved.
"I tried to keep it in a restorative narrative approach," Lopez said. "If something was wrong, or got destroyed, I'd followed up on what happened next and how things could get better. People then started to follow me. It was never about me. Listen, I'm just an overweight, bald headed, Puerto Rican guy."
Lopez said there was never of shortage of things to brag about when talking about Atlantic City.
"We've got a great Boardwalk, beach and a great community music scene," Lopez said. "We have great cheesesteaks and food. I just simply shared those things. People then started asking me on social media where can I find or get this and that."
It wasn't long before the owner of WOND-AM-FM approached him about doing a radio show, mostly doing what he was doing on social media.
"I've been doing the radio show about four years," Lopez said. "When I thought about what we would do, I didn't want to make it political. There's nothing wrong with any of those shows, because I listened to them myself. We're going to talk about Atlantic City. Whether it's big events, or small events, or something just happened at the Arts Garage, or Duck Town or whatever.
"I just formatted it around Atlantic City and tried to keep it positive. I have to talk politics a little bit. In doing that, I say let's talk about your platform and not so much about the guy or girl you're running against. I try to make it informative."
He is also the creator and producer of the ACMike TV show on Stockton University Comcast and YouTube channels.
That affection for Atlantic City and what he does comes ringing through and people have taken notice. Some of the awards he has received includes a Senate citation given by the late Sen. Jim Whelan in 2013, Hometown Hero recipient in 2016, Senate commendation by State Sen. Chris A. Brown for the Latino Pride Award of Atlantic County and the 2020 award from Tri-State Black History Organization for his community activism and coalition building.
But last year's Nuestro Pueblo award he received from the Hispanic Association of Atlantic County was special.
"It was amazing," Lopez said of the evening. "To get the award from the community, from Stockton University and HAAC it was tremendous. I just felt so honored because I've seen a few of the other winners in the past and now to be a part of that ceremony was wonderful. When you're doing those things in the community, you kind of just do it right and you don't expect anything. I was just flattered."
Lopez said for now, he is having a great time doing what he loves to do and being able to share it with everyone in Atlantic County as part of his second act.
"'It's an honor to be on radio and there is a responsibility to share with people and talk the truth or whatever, or let people express themselves and just we as residents, visitors and everything to Atlantic City and the world in general," Lopez said. "We have to do our part. That restorative narrative approach I think is so important. That's what it's about."
QUESTION: What do you love about Atlantic City? Comment in the Discussion Panel below.
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