Two people with strong ties to Atlantic County will play a major role in Donald Trump’s presidency, spending most of their time in the White House while squeezing in visits to family and friends here.
Kellyanne Conway, who went to high school in Hammonton and owns a Ventnor beach house, was appointed Thursday as a counselor to Trump, working on messaging and legislative priorities. Conway also ran Trump’s presidential campaign.
Atlantic City native Don McGahn will be Trump’s White House counsel, which is the president’s top attorney.
“We’re so proud of Don and of Kellyanne, too,” said Noreen McGahn, Don’s mother. “It’s amazing that two people from the same diocese are now in the White House.”
McGahn and Conway are former members of the Camden Diocese and attended Catholic high schools in Atlantic County. Conway went to St. Joseph High School in Hammonton, McGahn to Holy Spirit in Absecon.
Kellyanne Conway won’t sever her New Jersey roots as she transitions to her new life in Washington, D.C., her family members said Thursday.
She will keep her $860,000 Ventnor beach home. But she may not be able to get there often, said cousin Renee Adamucci, of Hammonton.
Conway last visited there in July, Adamucci said.
Conway and husband George T. Conway III, a partner in the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, also don’t plan to sell their primary residence in Alpine, Bergen County, she said.
George Conway is looking at new opportunities in D.C., she said.
“He has had a couple of offers, either to go to a new firm or do something even more exciting,” Adamucci said. “It’s just an exciting time for all of us.”
While Conway has a law degree, her job will not be a legal counselor. She’ll advise Trump on issues and communicate his positions to the public, according to the Trump Transition Team.
The Jan. 20 inauguration day is also Kellyanne Conway’s 50th birthday.
George Conway flew her family to Las Vegas for her 40th birthday. There won’t be time for a long celebration for this major milestone.
“She’ll be too busy. There will just be a small reception in Washington for her birthday that her mother is giving her,” said her aunt, Angela Coia, of Hammonton. “We are so thrilled. That’s all I can say.”
Kellyanne’s mom, Diane Fitzpatrick, of Atco in Camden County, is Coia’s sister.
Most of Conway’s Atco and Hammonton family members will travel to D.C. for the inauguration and birthday party.
Adamucci said she and her husband will drive down Jan. 19 and spend that night at a low-key get-together. The inauguration Friday morning will be followed by a parade and a formal ball.
“We all have our gowns and tuxes,” she said.
Saturday they will go to Mass, get brunch and celebrate privately with Kellyanne, she said.
“We will grab her for hour or two, then all head home again,” Adamucci said.
Three of Conway’s children are excited about the move, but oldest daughter Claudia started a change.org petition to keep her family in Alpine, Coia said.
The children are twins Claudia and George, 12; Charlotte, 8; and Vanessa, 5.
Adamucci said Claudia will come around to be happy with the move.
“She has the lead in a play in Alpine in January, and Kelly is going to make arrangements for her to still be able to do that,” Adamucci said.
Donald McGahn was visiting his parents in Brigantine last month when he received a phone call. On the other end was a Trump staffer, offering him the job as chief lawyer for the president’s administration.
Later, he and his wife, Shannon, took their children to Storybook Land to see Santa Claus.
McGahn previously was chairman of the Federal Election Commission and has worked for the law firm Jones Day and for Trump’s campaign.
“It has been quite a journey,” McGahn’s mother, Noreen, said during an interview at her home in Brigantine. “It’s surreal. I never imagined he would be in the White House.”
McGahn attended Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Atlantic City and later Holy Spirit, where he played football and golf, enjoyed music and sailed, she said. Sailing and playing guitar are still hobbies, she said.
“If he wasn’t a lawyer, I guess he would have had a music career,” she said, laughing.
His father, Donald Sr., worked for the federal government as a lawyer. His uncle, Patrick “Paddy” McGahn, worked closely with Trump in Atlantic City while he was building casinos.
Although a member of the McGahn family has worked closely with Trump before, Noreen said, it was not part of the decision to make him the campaign lawyer or White House counsel. She said her son has never discussed the ties with Trump.
“I have to think (Trump) knows by now,” she said. “But they are both so busy that it just doesn’t matter anymore.”
His mother said her son has kept abreast of Atlantic City issues, including the state takeover. He also visits with family.
He calls his parents once a week to talk about life, the family and whatever else is going on, Noreen said.
“He’s still just the same person,” she said. “He kind of keeps to himself and never really puts himself out there.”