ATLANTIC CITY — After getting sworn in on New Year’s Day, Frank Gilliam Jr. said to a packed Council Chambers he looks forward to making the city the “shining star of New Jersey.”
Gilliam, 47, a city native and former councilman-at-large, was surrounded Monday by his wife, Shawna, family members and dozens of supporters as he became the city’s new mayor.
The room erupted in applause after he took the oath of office, administered by retired Associate Justice John E. Wallace Jr. of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
“It’s a surreal feeling. I feel very proud,” Gilliam said after the ceremony, mentioning his added strength from his supporters in attendance. “Atlantic City will be in good hands moving forward.”
Gilliam, who was elected to council in 2009 and was re-elected to his at-large seat in 2013, takes the place of Republican Mayor Don Guardian, whom he defeated in the November election.
Two out of the three councilmen-at-large were also sworn in at Monday’s ceremony: incumbent Moisse “Mo” Delgado and newcomer Jeffree Fauntleroy II.
Incumbent George Tibbitt, who was scheduled to be sworn in for his fourth term, was not present Monday, and said he was out of town for his son’s ice hockey tournament. He said he had plans to take the oath of office Monday evening.
The ceremonies took place just before the annual City Council reorganization meeting, packed with nearly 200 supporters, family and friends of elected officials and several dignitaries.
Gilliam briefly described his vision for the city following the ceremony, saying his ability to unify and bring in new ideas will help to foster the change the city needs during his term.
“We can expect progressiveness. We can expect open ideas. We can expect the question, ‘Why not? Why not Atlantic City?’” Gilliam said.
His first order of business as mayor will be to sit down with state officials to discuss a future “partnership,” he said, and he looks forward to a year of positivity in 2018.
Imam Amin Muhammad, of the Masjid Muhammad mosque in the city, gave the invocation at Monday’s ceremony, saying he wanted to celebrate diversity, “which our new mayor has been pioneering.”
The ceremony also included remarks from Melaku Lakew, professor emeritus of economics at Stockton University. Lakew first met Gilliam when he was a student at Stockton.
“My student then became a friend,” he said. “I am happy and delighted to see Frank be the next mayor of Atlantic City.”
As for councilmembers, this will be 32-year-old Fauntleroy’s first term in office. He was sworn in by his grandfather, Frank Oatman.
Fauntleroy said following the ceremony it was not only a great day for him but for his family. Fauntleroy’s mother, Kelli Oatman, stood next to him while he was sworn in, with tears in her eyes.
“I’m looking forward to progressing the city in the right direction,” Fauntleroy said. “There’s a lot of change that’s coming.”
Delgado, 47, won a council seat in 2009 and was re-elected in 2013. He said following the swearing in with his wife and family standing by that the city is a “roller coaster ride” and looks forward to unification.
“We just have to prepare for ups and downs and ride it until the end,” Delgado said.
After the ceremonies and during the council reorganization meeting, Council President Marty Small was voted to continue as council president, along with Councilman Aaron Randolph as vice president. Both re-appointments were approved with 5-3 votes.
During the course of the meeting, there was a disagreement between Delgado and Small about the frequency of council meeting dates and council procedure.
During public comment, several residents urged council to work together in the new administration for all of the residents of the city — no matter their differences.
“I hope that you bring a different element to council,” Muhammad said, returning to the microphone during public comment. “Atlantic City needs unity. If you continue to be divided, the citizens of Atlantic City will replace you as they replaced others.”
After hearing the public comments, several councilmen, including Small and Delgado, spoke about unity and the importance of working together as a city, being professional and putting personal disagreements aside.
“We want the best for Atlantic City,” Delgado said.
Gilliam spoke before the meeting was adjourned, thanking his council colleagues for helping to sharpen him in his current role.
He left the council chambers by saying he looks forward to taking advantage of the city being “The World’s Playground.”
“In playgrounds, you normally see people smiling and enjoying themselves,” he said. “Atlantic City has a great opportunity.”