Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy on Atlantic City, has finally taken another step in his deservedly ascending career. As expected. The surprise was that he remained the face of New Jersey’s city restoration project, unpaid, for 20 months.
Now he is corporate counsel of New York City, leading that great city’s law department of a thousand attorneys and several hundred support staff.
Johnson moved quickly after being named by the governor in February 2018 to help develop the state plan for making Atlantic City government sustainable and for steering it toward a return to local control. By September of that year, he coauthored and released a report that envisioned a much-improved city supported by seven pillars.
These included rebuilding the strength of the casinos, boosting job opportunities, improving public safety and its perception, addressing disparities in the health of residents, better planning and developing of the city, making the needs of youth central to restoration efforts and creating an effective and durable city government.
This outline already has guided many state and local accomplishments, including a multi-faceted mission to reduce the city’s high infant mortality rate, a solid plan to bring a supermarket to the resort, the groundwork for an AtlantiCare Healthpark, and certified public manager training for the city’s senior managers.
Johnson also directed the formation of the Atlantic City Executive Council, bringing together a comprehensive selection of area public and private stakeholders to engage in refining and implanting the state plan.
If he had done nothing else, all that was such a great service to the people of Atlantic City and surrounding communities that he earned their heartfelt gratitude.
But in the months he remained engaged with local people and the process he launched and guided, Johnson set an extraordinary example of compassion, intelligence and patience.
He made clear the path of shared effort toward a more effective, efficient city government — assisted by New Jersey — that will lead to a thriving economy and greater quality of life.
Now it’s up to everyone in and around the city to carry his mission forward for their long-term benefit.