A former Atlantic City councilman is challenging the executive director of Main Street Atlantic City in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for Atlantic County 1st District freeholder.
Pamela Fields, who was nominated by the regular county party in March, is facing Ernest Coursey in the race to succeed outgoing Freeholder Charles Garrett, who is running for Atlantic City mayor. The 1st District includes the first four wards of Atlantic City, Pleasantville and the West Atlantic City section of Egg Harbor Township.
Fields, 44, of Atlantic City, cited her background in city government as a council and mayor’s aide, her work for the local Barack Obama presidential campaigns and her degree in political science from Richard Stockton College and master’s in administrative science from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
“I’ve been a lifelong Democrat, and I come from a background of politicians and community leaders,” Fields said.
Her plan, which she called Pamela’s Plan, is to combat the sources of crime by increasing job training and employment.
“We also need to improve the growth of small businesses,” she said. “Creating small businesses is good for folks to have opportunities. And I’m very concerned about seniors and veterans, as my father is a World War II veteran.”
Fields also emphasized the “huge issue” of single-bid contracts, saying that “we have to get more contracts to Atlantic County businesses and ensure the county makes appropriate investments in the district and Atlantic County.”
She added that the displacement of large numbers of residents due to Hurricane Sandy makes it important that early voting, recently vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, be reconsidered.
Fields also said the current all-male freeholder board is not representative of the county, and “we need to be included in the process, especially with a majority of Atlantic County being female.”
Coursey, 50, an Atlantic City councilman from 1991 to 2002, aide and deputy to Mayor Lorenzo Langford, and former South Jersey Transportation Authority commissioner, said he’s running for freeholder because “this is my passion, being a public servant. My record certainly speaks for itself. ... I have the experience, and experience does matter.”
Coursey cited endorsements from the Rev. Milton Hendricks, former state Secretary of State Regena Thomas and former Freeholder Lawton Nelson Jr., along others.
If nominated and elected, Coursey said, he would look at issues affecting all of Atlantic County, not just the 1st District.
“(But) I will be out there banging the drum for what I believe is right for the 1st District,” Coursey said. “The taxpayers of Atlantic City get very little in return for what they pay in taxes, and I’d like to sit down with the county executive, administrator and freeholder board and see what we can do to provide additional services to residents of Atlantic City.”
He also said he wants to form an advisory board for residents of Atlantic City, West Atlantic City and Pleasantville to talk about issues affecting the district.
Coursey was critical of the Atlantic County Democrats, saying that he opposed attempts to redistrict the 1st District to remove Pleasantville and add Brigantine.
“I was one of the few who fought against it,” Coursey said. “It was the (county) Democratic Party who supported redistricting to remove minority populations from the 1st District. I spoke against it and took on the Atlantic County Democratic Party, and I won.”
He also criticized Garrett, saying that if elected “I would not be a freeholder you only see at elections either. You have a freeholder for six years and most people don’t know who he is. And he’s running for mayor.”
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Republican candidate John Bettis, a former Pleasantville city administrator, in November.
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