By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY – In 1989 and 1990, professional football and baseball player Bo Jackson was part of highly successful Nike advertising campaign called “Bo Knows,” playing upon his multi-talented athletic achievements, humorously leading to other areas of life.
One could say Marty Small, city council president of Atlantic City, is the resort destination’s version of “Bo Knows” after working with the city school, the local school district and various organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Marty Small knows Atlantic City. And he’s serious about its citizens, its governance and its future. He told Front Runner New Jersey in new interview that he is not going anywhere.
“I love my city,” said Small, who has been on city council since 2004, the last four years as its president. “I like to say I’m Atlantic City born, I’m Atlantic City bred and when I die, I’ll be Atlantic City dead.”
Small, like Jackson, was a multi-sports athlete at Atlantic City High School and played basketball collegiately at Stockton University, ending his career with several records. His sophomore year he met his wife LaQuetta Small, the incoming principal at Atlantic City High School. They have been together ever since.
He was elected to present Ward 2 at 29, still the record for the youngest person ever elected to the position. Small has his bachelor’s degree from Stockton and his master’s degree in educational leadership from Cheyney University.
His full time job is dean of athletic, recreational and governmental affairs at Principle Academy Charter in Egg Harbor Township, continuing to longtime dedication to local youth.
Making Himself Accountable
As a native Atlantic City resident who lives in the same neighborhood he grew up in, Small said being a city leader comes with accountability and responsibility. He said it is something he accepted long ago.
In June, he was elected to his fifth consecutive term represented Ward 2, and the first time he ran unopposed.
“Being an elected official is something that I thrived for since I was a kid,” Small said. “I’ve always been a leader in my peer group. People always assumed I would ascend to city leadership. There’s been highs and lows, but definitely more highs than lows.
“I’m a fierce campaigner. Every election in my career, I had a challenger. I believe (not having an opponent in June) was a clear indication that my constituents and people throughout the city are happy with the job I’m doing,” he continued.
Small has run the Atlantic City’s mayor twice, the most recent in 2017 where in lost in the Democratic primary to current Mayor Frank Gilliam. Gilliam went on to unseat Republican incumbent Don Guardian in the general election that November.
Small said while he has made no commitment to run again, he said the experiences have not soured him on a position.
“The first time I ran I was a lot younger,” Small said of his 2009 mayoral run, where he lost to former Mayor Lorenzo Langford in the Democratic primary. “I thought I was ready and looking back in retrospect I wasn’t ready at that time. We put up the best fight we could with the resources we had.
“The last election (2017) I was outspent 5-to-1 money on and off the books. I could have packed it in, but I’m using it as a motivating tool and I continue to lead city council the best I can and the community. Who knows? We’ll see what the future holds. That is something I still believe I would like to do. In God’s time, we’ll see what happens.”
Small referred back to something Bishop R. Fulton Hargrove told him days after his primary loss to Gilliam for his encouragement. Hargrove arrived at Small’s house to tell him the Fellowship of Church of Atlantic City and Vicinity had given him its government leadership award.
“I was sitting at my house with my running mate down and out and thinking ‘this was really my time,'” Small said. “(Hargrove) looked at me and said, ‘You’re right, this was your time, but just not your turn.’ I sat back and that stuck with me. I said, I will continue to work hard and do the best job I can as far as fostering a great working relationship with the state. I was against the state takeover at first. It’s not perfect. My goal is always Atlantic City being the best place it can be.”
There’s a lot swirling around Atlantic City politics currently – from a group trying to change the government form to city manager format to the state’s control of the city’s finances. Small said he is trying to keep in eye on the ball closer to home and deal with taxes and quality of life issues.
“We’re worked hard with our budget team to get those (tax) numbers down,” Small said, saying that they have been able to hold taxes flat and even decreasing them in one year recently. “We can only control the city portion of the budget (tax increase). We’ve done great job.
“There’s a lot of quality of life challenges. We had a recent spike in violence. We look to working with our chief of police Jim Johnson, our governor and Atlantic City executive committee to continue to come up with creative ways that is conducive to good public safety,” he added.
Homegrown Atlantic City Role Model
Small said he is comfortable being a role model for youth, particular the African-American youth coming up in the city the way he did. He said to means a lot for him to establish those relationships he hopes will last a lifetime.
“You’ve got people who are 30 years old and they call me Mr. Marty,” Smalls said. “That’s the name I’m known for because of my relationships with the youth in the city. I’m a career recreation professional.
“I’ve worked programs from the state’s Safe Haven program to the Community Police Partnership program, to running the Boys & Girls Clubs for 4½ years and my tenure at the Atlantic City School District for 11 years. My family and I built my dream home. My family is invested in the community. We’re blessed to be in this position. We’re blessed to be able to answer the call for our community. We’re positive role model for children and adults in Atlantic City. Everything we’ve earned, we’ve earned through shear hard work, blood, sweat and tears,” he said.
LaQuetta Small takes on the new position at principal at Atlantic City High School. The couple has two children, Jada, 11, and Marty Jr., 9. Small said he believes she will excel at the position.
“I’ve known my wife since she was 17,” Small said. “I was sophomore she was a freshman at Stockton. She has four degrees and has always been extremely focused and bright.”
Small said he has dedicated his life to public service and the people of Atlantic City. He said he hopes his experiences at a native son of New Jersey’s premiere resort city will help lift it up through any situation.
“My experience prepares you for about anything, from working for city, being a board member, then work elected official,” Small said. “It’s a unique position because to see how things work on the outside and the inside. My philosophy in life is that when you go into a situation, you have to inspect before you expect.
“I enjoy constituent service and making things happen for people. There’s nothing I like more than helping people out with a particular circumstance or situation, then seeing the end result,” he added.
Small said he plans on making those things happen for years to come. Small knows Atlantic City.
Photo courtesy of Marty Small Sr.