Atlantic City no longer has a public safety director. But the man leaving the post said he’ll still be watching out for his hometown.
“I came back because I’m concerned about the city,” Will Glass said. “We’re going to keep our hand in its future in any way we can be helpful.”
City Council voted last year to eliminate the position effective Friday.
City leadership has gone back and forth about the position. In 2009, then-Mayor Lorenzo Langford moved to reinstate it.
The first person to hold the job was Christine Petersen, whose tenure was short and divisive.
But Glass proved a unifying presence overseeing police, fire, Emergency Management and Beach Patrol.
“He was the reason for the improved relationship with the last administration,” PBA President Paul Barbere said. “We were able to get done more than we had in the past, and I’ve got to give that credit to the director.”
It seemed to help that he was both a former city lifeguard and retired deputy police chief.
As a rower on the Beach Patrol, he learned teamwork. As a street cop working units that included SWAT and K-9, he learned that the job he thought could make a difference was even more rewarding than he thought, he said.
At every promotion or swearing in Glass has spoken at since taking over as director, he tells those younger officers how he would love to be in their place. To start his career again, because he enjoyed it that much.
Glass joined the department in 1978, at 27, after working as a sheriff’s officer for two years.
“Each and every day I’ve worked with Willie, he’s been fully committed to our clean and safe objective for Atlantic City,” said Tourism District Commander Tom Gilbert. “He’s been an exceptional partner because he brings the full package: an excellent person, an excellent cop, an excellent leader.”
While he has a home in Florida, Glass and his wife have lived six months of the year in their Chelsea Heights home, even during his five years of retirement.
He grew up on the other side of the bridge, in two homes in Chelsea: first on North Montpelier Avenue and then on the street’s south end, where his old house is the only one left standing.
“It was a wonderful neighborhood,” he has said. “The families looked out for each other.”
The youngest of three children, his father worked for the city and his mother was an office manager for a surgeon.
“The biggest difference, obviously, is casino gambling,” he said of those growing up here now. “The dynamics of the city have changed a great deal because of that.”
He said it does pose challenges, but he wouldn’t call them negatives. Glass is protective of his hometown, and the people in it.
“I think sometimes we don’t get credit for the good will in the city,” he says.
For every “horrific act of violence,” there are “1,000 acts of good will in this city every day. We have wonderful people. Wonderful communities. I think it’s drowned out to some degree by the violence that happens.”
He now plans to rest a bit, and get back to his trucking business, Offshore Inc., which he said has stayed active thanks to his wife and “terrific employees.”
“It’s bittersweet leaving,” he said. “I think there was some unfinished business I wanted to do.”
But Glass said he feels he’s leaving the city in good hands. He credited recently retired police Chief Ernest Jubilee, Beach Patrol Chief Rod Aloise and Office of Emergency Management Chief Tom Foley with making his job easier. And he said the unions — headed by Barbere, Firefighter Chris Emmell and Eric Grace of the Beach Patrol — have “been very, very supportive and great to work with.”
Meanwhile, Glass will continue to split his time between his homes here and in the Florida Keys, and await the next chapter.
“You never know what opportunities are going to open up,” he said. “I’m sort of keeping my options open.”
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