Feature photo by Meredith Winner, Mer-Made Photography
By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY – Mayor Marty Small talked about the importance of second chances and brought up living examples of that in his own life as proof when he was sworn in on Saturday for his first four-year-term as Atlantic City's mayor at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.
Small was serving as council president when Frank Gilliam was forced to resigned on federal wire fraud charges. What followed then was a series of rapid-fire elections, all hotly contested, for him to keep his seat – two Democratic primaries to fulfill Gilliam's term and two last year for a new four-year term.
None of that would have been possible, Small said, if it wasn't for Stockton University basketball Coach Gerry Matthews, Equal Opportunity Fund council Tony Bethel and university President Harvey Kesselman in 1993.
Small, a student-athlete at Stockton, was kicked out after his freshman year after flunking a math class. He said it took Matthews, now a member of the Stockton Athletic Hall of Fame, and Bethel going to bat for him to convince Kesselman to give him a "second chance," giving him a opportunity to take an extra class in summer school to get back in.
Small went on to become a 1,000-point scorer on Stockton's basketball team and the school's all-time rebounding leader while getting his degree. He met his wife La'Quetta Small, now superintendent of Atlantic City Schools, there.
"I'm going to challenge each and every one of you in 2022 to give people a chance," Small said after his swearing-in. "You never know the outcome of that chance."
Kesselman swore in Small with Matthews, Bethel and La Quetta Small joining him on stage with his children. Small was a long-serving member of Ward 2 who had run for mayor twice before and lost. The latest was to Gilliam in 2017 before he was elevated to the position and won it outright in the two-year "vote-a-rama" that followed.
George Tibbett, who won re-election to his council seat in November on Small's ticket for an at-large position, was elected council president on a 5-4 vote, edging out Ward 1 councilman Aaron "Sporty" Randolph. Ward 3 councilman Kaleem Shabazz, who is the long-serving president of the Atlantic City NAACP, was unanimously elected vice president.
Tibbett promised that "a lot of things" will be going on to shape the rebounding resort city positively and "we will have our fingerprints on it" for years to come.
Atlantic City will be the home of one of nation's showcase conventions when the NAACP holds its national convention in the town this summer. It will be the first live convention the NAACP has held since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, depending on the spread of the current outbreak.
Residents will be expecting to see progress on the million-dollar water park at the Showboat. Where owner Bart Blatstein promised last year it would be the "best in class," becoming Atlantic City's first major year-round family entertainment resort.
New at-large members Stephanie Marshall and Bruce E. Weekes also were sworn-in as official council members at the ceremony and council meeting. Weekes accepted his oath virtually.
QUESTION: Will you be visiting the NAACP national convention in Atlantic City this summer or any of its other attractions? Why or why not? Answer in the Discussion section below.
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