Atlantic County Freeholder candidate Thelma Witherspoon. Photo courtesy of Thelma Witherspoon.

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

MAYS LANDING — Dr. Thelma Witherspoon said her life has been grounded in community service and working with the public, whether it was with the City of Atlantic City or alongside her parents at Westminister Christian Worship Center.

Witherspoon, who has served as Atlantic City Board of Education president, said she would now like to expand that service even more as an Atlantic County Freeholder.

After falling just 205 votes shy of winning an at-large freeholder position in 2017, Witherspoon is running for the District 3 seat, currently held by Ashley Bennett. She faces stiff competition in Egg Harbor Township Committeeman Andrew Parker III.

Serving the Community

“I worked for the City of Atlantic City for 35 years,” Witherspoon recently told Front Runner New Jersey. “Twenty of those years were in the Department of Revenue and Finance. I worked in the grants and budgeting unit of the Atlantic City Police Department for the remainder of my career. From this experience, I learned how to serve the public.”

She also served on the Atlantic City Board of Education as president and vice president. During that time, the school district broke ground on New York Avenue and Sovereign Avenue schools, enclosed the classrooms of the Uptown Complex and the Martin Luther King Jr. Complex and completed the expansion of the Chelsea Heights addition.

“I started out as president of the Parent Action Council of the New Jersey Avenue School,” Witherspoon said. “I learned the process of public school education after several years of volunteering and speaking on the behalf of parents. I understood that if I wanted to affect change, I needed to become a school board member in order to help regulate and change policies.

“I decided to run for the Atlantic City School Board and ran as a Mother and Grandmother Team with Rochelle Salway. It was a rewarding and challenging experience,” she said.

Shaped by Faith

What has shaped Witherspoon the most over her life is her faith. Her parents, Bishop Luke and Pastor  Juanita Witherspoon, founded Westminister Evangelistic Church, now the Westminister Christian Worship Center, more than 44 years ago. She has been an ordained minister for more than 25 years working alongside her parents.

Witherspoon earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biblical Theology from Jameson Bible School and the International Christian University, respectively, and her doctor of divinity degree from the CICA International University.

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“I was born and raised in a Christian home full of love,” Witherspoon said. “This helped shape my life. I saw compassion first. Not only did [my parents] preach the Gospel but they helped many people. I believe my mind was set for public service at this point.”

On the Radio

Witherspoon extended her reach into the community for the past 11 years with her radio show “In The Community with Dr. Thelma Witherspoon” at the local Gospel station WEHA-FM. She also hosts an Internet streaming program “World Focus” on CTF-TV. She said the owners of the radio station approached her about the possibility about doing a program.

Thelma Witherspoon at WEHA-FM in Atlantic City for her radio show. Photo courtesy of Thelma Witherspoon.

“I was excited because I felt my community service would go to the next level,” Witherspoon said. “It started out as a 90-day trial and has gone to 11 years. The show is community-based and I now have a co-host, First Lady Mary Parrish. We pride ourselves in bringing information that will be helpful to our listeners. It is a lot of work, but we enjoy it.”

Witherspoon also served as second vice president with the NAACP Atlantic City chapter, Atlantic County Committee Person-At-Large of Hamilton Township, and was the county’s faith-based coordinator for Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 presidential campaign. She is also a member of the Historical Preservation Commission in Hamilton Township. She was named Atlantic City Hometown Heroes in 2017 by Atlantic City’s Friends in Action.

Thelma Witherspoon with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Photo courtesy of Thelma Witherspoon.

Witherspoon said she is pleased to be endorsed by Bennett in her current race but stressed that her goal is to serve others in the position.

“I really never thought about becoming a role model but I evolved into one by serving the community,” Witherspoon said. “I am humbled and honored to continue the ministry of which they started when I was a young girl. My parents have inspired me and continue to inspire me, telling me that with God all things are possible and that I can do anything I set my mind to.”

She said regardless of the results in November, her commitment to serving the community will not waver.

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