For five generations, my family has lived in Atlantic County. For the past three months, I have had the privilege to represent our community in the New Jersey State Senate. While that will come to an end shortly, I could not be more grateful for the experience.
The state Senate seat in the 2nd Legislative District has been a storied one — held by the likes of Steven Perskie, Frank “Hap” Farley, William Gormley and Jim Whelan. Whether you agree with the policies and politics of those leaders, we can all agree that they were, in fact, leaders. They were powerful voices who helped to shape the history of Atlantic City and Atlantic County. I’m humbled to have my name etched on that list.
Atlantic County has been a shining star in our state. Sadly, from Atlantic City’s past troubles to record high foreclosure rates to underfunded schools to the opioid epidemic, recent times have not felt so bright. Yet, I believe in Atlantic City and the hardworking people who live here. That is why I was determined to make every minute in the Senate count.
The time between Election Day and the new legislative session in January, known as lame duck, is often when legislators take care of unfinished business. Filling the seat of the late, great Sen. Jim Whelan meant that there was a lot of work to do and I was honored to do it.
While other legislators may have been focused on holiday vacations or planning for the new legislative session, I went to work for my constituents. I pushed for property tax relief for hard-working middle-class families, expanded services and opportunities for homeless veterans, and economic incentives for the Stockton Aviation Research Park — a program that will finally put Atlantic County back in the economic driver seat with new industries and new jobs for the community.
While I may no longer represent the people of 2nd Legislative District in the Senate, I will never stop advocating for our shared values and interests. Atlantic County is on the verge of a great comeback, but not without the efforts of our elected officials. A four-year term in the state Senate is a long time, which is why I ask Atlantic County residents to hold your next senator’s feet to the fire. We need real results for our community, not just talking points and campaign gimmicks. Never has there been a more important time for Atlantic County. Our successes and failures over the next few years will determine the future of this county for decades to come.
I grew up believing that public service is one of the highest callings, and to serve the residents of the 2nd Legislative District in the 217th Legislature, even for a short time, has been one of the great honors of my life.
Sen. Colin Bell, D-Atlantic, represents the 2nd Legislative District. His term will expire Monday, Jan. 8.