ATLANTIC CITY — Gov. Phil Murphy has appointed U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s former chief of staff to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
Modia “Mo” Butler, 45, will serve a four-year term on the CRDA Board of Directors. Butler was recommended by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, to fill a vacant seat on the 17-member board.
“I think that CRDA has tremendous potential for impacting the City of Atlantic City in a positive way,” Butler said Thursday, adding he was excited for the opportunity.
Murphy’s office has yet to publicly announce Butler’s appointment and did not respond to a request to confirm.
Butler, who served five years as Booker’s chief of staff during his tenure as mayor of Newark and three years in the Senate, was recently named partner at Mercury Public Affairs LLC. He also served as chairman of the Newark Housing Authority from 2006 until 2015. He lives in Newark but grew up in Philadelphia.
“I understand the importance of cities, I understand the importance of economic development and economic drivers to transform cities,” he said. “And CRDA plays a special role, obviously, in the fabric of Atlantic City. So I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and be of service and be helpful.”
Butler is eligible to be sworn in at CRDA’s next public meeting Oct. 16 but indicated he would likely wait until November.
The Assembly speaker, by statute, is afforded two recommendations to the CRDA board, which must then be appointed by the governor. Butler will fill a seat vacated by Gary Puma, who was directly appointed by former Gov. Chris Christie in 2013. The other speaker recommendation sitting on the CRDA board is Michael Hanley.
“Modia Butler brings tremendous leadership and experience in municipal and state government to the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority,” said Liza Acevedo, a spokeswoman for Coughlin’s office. “Speaker Coughlin recognizes and values Mo’s knowledge and expertise and knows he will be successful in helping to continue the ongoing revitalization of Atlantic City.”
Earlier this year, Murphy appointed a new executive director and deputy executive director to the authority. Matt Doherty, former mayor of Belmar, and Marshall Spevak, former chief of staff for Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, both D-Atlantic, assumed their roles as director and deputy director, respectively, on July 1.
CRDA is responsible for Atlantic City’s Tourism District, which includes the Boardwalk and its casino properties.
The state agency is funded by the city’s luxury tax as well as parking and room fees. Last week, Murphy signed legislation that taxes sports betting revenue generated at Atlantic City’s casinos an additional 1.25 percent and directs the money to CRDA for the “marketing and promotion” of the resort. In 2016, CRDA lost its primary source of funding, investment alternative taxes paid by the casinos, after the state Legislature redirected the money to pay down Atlantic City’s massive debt.
This story was first reported Wednesday evening by the New Jersey Globe.