ATLANTIC CITY — Gov. Phil Murphy has appointed bricklayers union head Richard E. Tolson as vice chairman of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
Tolson, 61, of Ocean City, is director of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers of New Jersey.
The CRDA Board of Directors has been without a vice chairman since current Chairman Robert Mulcahy was appointed to the top position by then-Gov. Chris Christie in 2011.
“I’m honored and flattered that the governor and the administration have shown confidence in me to serve in this position,” said Tolson.
A native of South Jersey, Tolson said his ties to Atlantic City date to his father’s employment with Abbott’s Dairies, his time playing basketball in Dante Hall, seeing jazz shows at Club Harlem on Kentucky Avenue and his first union hall on Tennessee Avenue.
“I have a history (with Atlantic City),” he said, “so I’m grateful that that kind of relationship is recognized, whether it’s me or other board members, and that we can bring that perspective to the board.”
Tolson was a member of Murphy’s transition team in 2017, serving on the governor-elect’s labor and workforce development committee. Murphy’s gubernatorial run elicited broad support from labor unions throughout the state, and the bricklayers union contributed more than $8,500 to the campaign, according to finance records.
CRDA initiatives related to job creation and vocational training outside the casino industry are a key focus of Tolson’s. He said addressing Atlantic City’s social service obligations, particularly within CRDA’s oversight of the Tourism District, was another issue.
“And, of course, the marketing of the whole city and the county,” he said.
Tolson has been a member of the CRDA Board of Directors since 2012, when he was appointed upon recommendation of Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland.
Having served on the board for several years, Tolson said he does not believe there will be a “tremendous amount of change” in his responsibilities now that he has been appointed vice chairman. If anything, Tolson said he anticipates having an “earlier involvement” in the board’s initiatives and filling in for an absent chairman when necessary.
In addition to his role on the CRDA board, Tolson represents the bricklayers and craftworkers union on the recently created Atlantic City Executive Council, which was a recommendation of the state’s transition report released in September. The report, co-authored by Jim Johnson, special counsel to Murphy for Atlantic City, emphasized breaking down the “silos” in which the resort’s various governing bodies, boards, commissions and committees operate. Tolson said he believed the dynamic in Atlantic City is changing as a result.
“It’s more of a collaborative approach from the front office than what we had under the previous administration,” he said. “And I think the residents of the city sense that, too.”
In addition to Tolson’s appointment, Murphy has made other changes at CRDA since taking office. In July, former Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty replaced Chris Howard as executive director of the authority, while Marshall Spevak, former chief of staff for Atlantic County’s Assembly representatives, was named deputy executive director. In October, Murphy appointed Modia Butler to the 17-member CRDA board. Butler served as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s chief of staff while the legislator and 2020 presidential candidate was mayor of Newark and during his early tenure in Washington.
Tolson’s annual salary of $18,000 as a board member will not change as a result of his appointment as vice chairman.