ATLANTIC CITY — When Mayor Don Guardian returns to his daily bike rides along the Boardwalk in the warmer weather, he’ll have fewer interruptions.

The outgoing Republican mayor, whose last full day of his four-year term is Sunday, rarely strayed from his early morning routine in the warmer months: waking up at 6 a.m., checking his phone and hopping on his bicycle for a ride along the Boardwalk — leaving his phone at home.

But for the past four years, those rides would still be interrupted by his staff — and some residents — who knew where to find him before 8 a.m.

“I don’t mind that,” Guardian, 64, said during his last week as mayor. “I have a feeling that my next career path is going to have me just as involved.”

After losing his re-election bid in November to Councilman Frank Gilliam Jr., who takes office Jan. 1, Guardian announced Wednesday he will be the next business administrator in Toms River, Ocean County.

The new job comes with a pay raise: He made $103,000 per year as mayor, and will earn $175,000 when he starts his new job next month.

The new gig also allows him to stay in municipal government, keeping him involved in issues such as parks, public works, beaches and public safety.

“I really love — as crazy as that sounds — working in local government. You actually see the results of what you did,” he said.

Guardian became the city’s first openly gay Republican mayor in 2013, an unlikely feat in the heavily Democratic city.

His term will mostly be defined by 80-hour workweeks while the city teetered near bankruptcy and drowned in hundreds of millions of dollars in debt as five casinos closed and the state took control of the city’s finances.

Thinking back on his four years in office, Guardian said he feels the city is “much better off now,” mentioning developers who invested in the city and projects that are expected to be completed next year.

He cited the $200 million Atlantic City Gateway Project that’s bringing a South Jersey Gas corporate headquarters and a Stockton University satellite campus to the city; the Boardwalk renovation project that eventually will connect Gardner’s Basin to the beach; the Beach at South Inlet housing project; the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City — and whatever happens with Revel.

He took pride in converting city streetlights to LEDs and having streets paved. But much of his time, he says, was spent avoiding bankruptcy and preventing the cash-strapped city from falling further into debt.

“In general, next year is going to be a very positive year for the city,” he said. “I don’t know how it couldn’t, minus a hurricane coming.”

Council President Marty Small, on the council since 2004, said Guardian’s term fell during a turbulent time for the city, especially once the state took over.

“He had numerous challenges. The city still has numerous challenges,” he said. “If you can survive in Atlantic City, you can survive anywhere.”

Guardian didn’t initially expect the financial crisis at the start of his term to pan out as it did with the state taking over, he said. As for his relationship with the state and Gov. Chris Christie, who is also leaving office in January, Guardian called it “tumultuous.”

He’s hopeful incoming Gov.-elect Phil Murphy will keep the city in mind and end the state takeover.

“We could have had a better relationship with the state,” Guardian said. “The takeover was not necessary. It just created bad feelings.”

He won’t miss the days of late-night phone calls when tragedy struck in the city, such as a bad fire or a shooting. But he said he will miss planning for the city’s future. He wanted another four years in office.

During Guardian’s re-election run in November, he and his campaign sparked allegations of voter fraud, claiming people were getting paid to vote for his opponent’s team. The campaign hired private investigators, requested a probe into the use of messenger ballots and tried challenging some ballots before they were officially counted.

He has stood by those allegations after the election, but he didn’t plan to push the issue further.

“I don’t have any bitterness about this. I’ve lived my whole life in New Jersey. This unfortunately is how New Jersey runs,” he said following the election.

Guardian had considered jumping into another election, last month saying he was contacted by the National Republican Congressional Committee about running for Congress in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, but those plans changed.

He’s looking forward to staying in municipal government, and continuing to live in Atlantic City with his husband, Louis Fatato.

Throughout Guardian’s time in office, he has been an advocate for young people who struggle with identity issues, reaching out to LGBT youth. He also has become close to many in City Hall, evident in a sendoff as he walked out for the last time Thursday.

Guardian is also the godfather to chief of staff Chris Filiciello’s youngest son, Mateo, who has Down syndrome, and is an advocate for him.

“He was there for me every step of the way,” Filiciello said. “He made his best effort to not make decisions impulsively, but to give them thought and prayer.”

On New Year’s Day in 2014, Guardian began the day of his swearing-in ceremony by attending a nondenominational service at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church.

That’s how he’ll end his term, too.

“It will be a Mass thanking God for the four years that we’ve had to serve here,” Guardian said. “We’ll ask Him to bless the city.”

Look back at Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian

Photo gallery of Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian through the years

  • Vernon Ogrodnek
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Atlantic City mayor-elect Don Guardian in his off at the Csino Redevlopment and Reinvestment Authority, in Atlantic City, Wednesday Nov. 6, 2013.

  • Ben Fogletto
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New AC Mayor Don Guardian gives thumbs up with supporters after giving his acceptance speech at Tun Tavern in AC. Tuesday November 5 2013 Atla…

  • Michael Ein
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian opens the doors to his new office with John Schultz watching in city hall, Wednesday Jan. 1, 2014, on his ina…

  • Michael Ein
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian poses with a photo of former mayor James Usry in city hall, Wednesday Jan. 1, 2014, on his inaugural day in A…

Don Guardian of Atlantic City mayor thank supporters at Atlantic County building Wednesday, Jan 1, 2014

  • Vernon Ogrodnek
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Atlantic City mayor-elect Don Guardian in his off at the Csino Redevlopment and Reinvestment Authority, in Atlantic City, Wednesday Nov. 6, 2013.

Don Guardian, Atlantic City mayoral hold the key to the City after inauguration service at St. Nicholas Church Wednesday, Jan 1, 2014

  • Ben Fogletto
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AC Mayor Don Guardian passes the closed Revel casino while doing his routine early morning bicycling on the Boardwalk. Tuesday September 2 201…

  • Ben Fogletto
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Guests brave the cold to watch the fireworks from the Ballroom balcony. Friday February 28 2014 Inaugural Ball honoring Atlantic City Mayor Do…

  • Ben Fogletto
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(l-r) Gov. Chris Christie and AC Mayor Don Guardian hug during the press conference. Tuesday May 6 2014 NJ Gov. Chris Christie meets with with…

  • Ben Fogletto
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AC Mayor Don Guardian arrives near protesters across the street from the CRDA building in Atlantic City before the summit. Monday September 8 …

  • Michael Ein
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From left; Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, Senator Jim Whelan, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, Senate President Steve Sweeney gather for a press c…

  • Dale Gerhard
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Blake Shelton held a meet and great in a "Fan Zone" prior to taking the stage where he autographed a guitar and met with members of the Boys a…

  • Vernon Ogrodnek
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Atlantic City mayor-elect Don Guardian speaks during a press conference at his campaign headquarters in Atlantic City, Wednesday Nov. 6, 2013.

  • Edward Lea
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian speaks during Forum in Atlantic City at the Second Baptist Church Tuesday, Sept 29, 2015.

  • Michael Ein / Staff Photographer
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Pride Alliance Advisor Mico Lucide, seated at left, watches Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, student and president of Pride Alliance Morganne…

  • Vernon Ogrodnek
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Atlantic City mayor-elect Don Guardian speaks during a press conference at his campaign headquarters in Atlantic City, Wednesday Nov. 6, 2013.

  • MATTHEW STRABUK
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On September 22nd 2015, children from the Texas Ave., New Hope Christian Academy, and Robinson Small Learning Center schools attend the grand …

  • Michael Ein
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Atlantic City Council President William "Speedy" Marsh and Mayor Don Guardian arrive for the second Atlantic City Summit, Wednesday Nov. 12, 2…

  • Ben Fogletto
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Rich Helfant (The Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance)(left) and mayor Don Guardian prepare to place the Rainbow Flag at the beach entrance at…

  • Viviana Pernot
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Atlantic City Mayor, Don Guardian, waves a Transitional Aid Memorandum of Agreement between the city and state, at a press conference at Atlan…

  • Edward Lea
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John Schultz, left of Atlantic City hugs Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, right during the lighting of the candles ceremony, South Jersey Aid…

  • Ben Fogletto / Staff Photographe
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Gary Loveman, Harrah's Resorts AC Chairman, (top right) elicits a chuckle from AC Mayor Don Guardian during the grand opening ceremony. Thursd…

  • Michael Ein
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Atlantic City Mayor-elect Don Guardian, right, and Senator Steve Sweeney sit down for lunch at White House Sub Shop in Atlantic City, Wednesda…

  • Michael Ein
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From left; Senator Jim Whelan, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian walk along Arctic Avenue near the Bass Pro…

  • Ben Fogletto
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AC Mayor Don Guardian arrives near protesters across the street from the CRDA building in Atlantic City before the summit. Monday September 8 …

  • Michael Ein
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From left; Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, Senator Jim Whelan, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, Senate President Steve Sweeney gather for a press c…

  • Viviana Pernot
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From left to right, Kaleem Shabazz, Marty Small, and Mayor Don Guardian are given a tour of Revel by Glenn Straub who insists that Revel will …

  • Ben Fogletto / Staff Photographe
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CRDA Exec Dir John Palmieri (left) and AC Mayor Don Guardian talk with members of the AC PR Coucil over lunch. Tuesday April 26 2016 CRDA Exec…

  • Jackie Schear
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian prepares to testify before the Assembly Judiciary Committe at the State House in Trenton in favor of the AC E…

  • VIVIANA PERNOT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
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Mayor of Atlantic City, Don Guardian, xxxxx

  • Ben Fogletto / Staff Photographer
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ACMUA Bruce Ward and AC Mayor Don Guardian speak at the press conference outside of the ACMUA Building in Atlantic City. Monday September 26 2…

  • Jackie Schear
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian testifies before the Assembly Judiciary Committee in favor of the Prieto AC Recovery Bill Thursday April 7, 2…

  • Michael Ein
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and other politicians hold a press conference, Friday Oct. 10, 2014, on the Atlantic City Boardwalk to denoun…

  • Edward Lea
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian speaks during Atlantic City's first public hearing to discuss the state rescue plan and what it needs to do t…

  • Viviana Pernot
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Councilmen (from left to right), Chuen "Jimmy" Cheng, Aaron Randolph, Frank Gilliam, Mayor Don Guardian and Councilman President Marty Small, …

  • Viviana Pernot
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Mayor Don Guardian and Chris Filiciello, Mayor Guardian’s chief of staff, arrive at the scene of a shooting that took place Thursday at noon a…

  • Viviana Pernot
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Mayor Don Guardian arrives at the scene of a shooting took place Thursday at noon at The Walk in Atlantic City, where 1 person was killed and …

  • Ben Fogletto / Staff Photographe
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Wednesday April 6 2016 Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian holds a press conference in Council Chambers in City Hall to address NJ Gov. Chris Chr…

  • Dale Gerhard
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Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian answers questions for the median after his press conference. Gov. Chris Christie held a press conference at t…

  • Viviana Pernot
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Miss America 2017, Savvy Shields, walks on the beach with Mayor Don Guardian for the iconic toe dip. Monday, September 12, 2016. (Viviana Pern…

  • Governor's Office / Provided
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NJ Gov. Chris Christie speaks in Trenton flanked by Senate President Steve Sweeney, left, and Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, about a financ…

  • Edward Lea
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, right talk with Atlantic City firefighter Marty Johnson at fire station during a rides along in the snowstor…

  • Michael Ein / Staff Photographer
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian arrives at City Hall after meeting with State Legislators in Trenton, Thursday April 7, 2016. The previously …

  • Vernon Ogrodnek / Multimedia Edi
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From left, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, The Palm Restaurant General Manager Paul Sandler, of Egg Harbor Township, and Mark Blum, Publishe…

  • Viviana Pernot
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, speaks at a press conference at Atlantic City City Hall, with City Officials beside him, to discuss the anti…

  • Dale Gerhard
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Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian (center) speaks during a stop at the Civil Rights Garden. The 41st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. March in…

  • Ben Fogletto
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AC Mayor Don Guardian talks with children dressed as various countries before the ceremony. Friday February 7 2014 Sovereign Avenue School in …

  • Ben Fogletto
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Teresa Long and her son, George-Paul Jones unwrap the gifts next to Dep. Chief Tim Friel (2nd from right) and Mayor Don Guardian (right). Tues…

  • Edward Lea / Staff Photographer
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Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian kicks off his re-election campaign in front of City Hall Thursday March 16, 2017. (The Press of Atlantic City…

  • Edward Lea
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Atlantic City Republican mayoral candidate Don Guardian, middle talk with resident of Atlantic City during his door-to-door campaign for votes…

  • ERIN SERPICO / Staff Writer
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John Carbone, an attorney hired by Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian’s re-election campaign, speaks to the Atlantic County Board of Elections d…

  • ()

Don Guardian conceded the election to Democratic candidate Frank Gilliam. 

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Contact: 609-272-7239 eserpico@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressSerpico

Covering breaking news for The Press of Atlantic City since September 2016. Graduate of the University of Maryland, Central Jersey native.

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