By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY â€“ In a crowded field for Atlantic City’s three at-large seats up for grabs on city council this year, Geoff Dorsey said he believes his positive, independent, grassroots campaign can rise above the usual city politics.
The managing member of Dorsey Construction and a longtime community volunteer and advocate, Dorsey is in the field of seven candidates in the Democratic primary. Three Republican candidates are running unopposed in their primary.
On the ballot, his name stands alone without running mates, highlighting the bold, yet independent nature of his campaign, leaning on the trust and ties in relationships, business and family connections, friendships and grassroots volunteerism he has built over a lifetime locally.
“I have avoided all of it and I am running a clean race based on the good will I have put out into the community,” Dorsey told Front Runner New Jersey this week. “I stand firmly on the fact that the goal isn’t a title. The goal is to be an official advocate of the people and I am already filling that role in many ways with organizations that I am a part of.
“This city council position allows me to do more for the city of Atlantic City. This position allows me to be even more of a liaison between the community, police, businesses in the city and so on,” he added.
Dorsey said the time was right for him to throw his hat in the ring with his youngest child in college.
“We moved back home to Atlantic City in 2019 and I immediately got involved with more organizations,” Dorsey said. I am no stranger to service. I was raised in an Episcopalian (Catholic) church. I went to public and Catholic schools, served as an altar boy, and sang in choir at [Our Lady Star of the Sea] Elementary.
“Mom worked on political campaigns including Jim Usry for mayor of Atlantic City. We are deeply committed to our faith and take seriously our responsibility to our community. As I joined different organizations, I noticed that I seemed to be the go-to person that they looked to solve many of the same issues.”
Ursy served as Atlantic City’s first African American mayor from 1984 to 1990.
Dorsey said he believed organizations feel they had “inadequate partners in the trades, services as well as with city council.” He said they lacked someone who could understand their perspective and would attend to their issues accordingly. They needed someone who would follow through with resolutions.
“Being in the construction trade, this is one of my strong suits,” Dorsey said. “I have contacts in the trade industry as well as an in depth understanding of the cityâ€™s processes. I am able to review projects, cost engineer them, negotiate better contracts, and utilize my network to get more work done for less money.
“And I’m always willing to donate to make ends meet. For these reasons, I was selected as chairman of safety and facilities at Atlantic City Boys & Girls club in 2020.
Positive Role Model
Dorsey has been involved in seemingly countless organizations over the years benefiting Atlantic City youth and less fortunately, quietly forging a bond with those who need help and building bridges and coalitions desperately needed in a city that can seem deeply dividedÂ at times.
It’s that quiet resolved, Dorsey said, that allows him to stand out from the other candidates running in the race. Being a positive role model, especially for minority youth, has been something Dorsey said he takes seriously.
“We leave this world with nothing but our reputation,” Dorsey said. “I have been employing AC residents without prejudice since the 90s and have always treated them like family. Iâ€™ve been a mentor and friend to many. I have a policy of empowering my coworkers and helping them get their lives to the next level.
“Training them with skills that they can take out into the world to make a career and a living is incredibly important to me. I believe we have to put our money where our mouth is and I have always put my employees first,” he said.
He said his goal has ways been to teach those around him about integrity and honesty.
“We don’t punish people for mistakes, we teach them to do better. I have a stern policy â€“ ‘let me know; don’t let me find out.’ This is not so I can punish anyone, but so I can advise the client of the issues and find a way to make amends quickly and effectively. If we make mistakes, we fix them. Then we move on.
“I often say I pay you to fix your own mistakes but I expect you to learn from them and try not to make the same ones again. I also encourage them to call me anytime for work or personal reasons. I am always available to help resolve problems,” Dorsey added.
The Rest of the Story
Dorsey shared numerous aspects of his life, his inspiration and public service with FRNJ.
FRNJ: Tell us about you and your family. Just anything you’d like to share. I understand you were born and raised in Atlantic City.
Geoff Dorsey: You are correct. In fact, the home that I own currently is on the bay block of Harrisburg Ave in Chelsea Heights, the same neighborhood that I grew up in. In 1974, when I was born, my family lived on North Maine Ave. From there, we moved to Walter J. Buzby Village in 1978. We lived there for 10 years, until my mom bought a house in 1988 and we moved to the south inlet on Connecticut Avenue. My mother still lives in that house. My mother Kristine is a third generation immigrant. She is half-Scottish and half-Irish. My father, Frank Jr., is African American and Native American. (From the Nigerian and Western Bantu people as well as the Blackfeet Indian Tribe of Washington state).
My father was absent for most of my life. I was raised by my mother and later my stepfather Randolph. Randolph is of Bohemian descent. He is a World War II veteran fighter pilot. My Wife Yesenia is of Puerto Rican descent from Brooklyn. She and I raised a “Brady bunch”Â of four girls, two daughter of hers from a previous marriage, one we had together and one of my previous relationships. We raised them all together and now have six grandkids. As for the girls ,the oldest was born in 1989 and youngest was born in 2002. My grandchildren range from 18 months to 10 years old.
FRNJ: What led you to running for city council?
Geoff Dorsey: I have always been very involved in the community and have always sought ways to stay connected to the community that I am proud to be a part of. For many years, I tried to help different councilmen with several projects but was never able to make the impact that I desired to. Iâ€™ve been involved in various organizations in and around Atlantic City. For many years, my primary focus was centered around my family, developing my businesses, and serving the community wherever I can.
As a result of my advocacy for citizens’ efforts and expertise in housing, I was selected to vice chairman of the Housing Committee to the NAACP.Â Those efforts led me to be selected for the Hometown Hero Award in 2008. I was elected second vice president of Friends in Action in 2020 and assistant director of our Workforce Development Program 2021, which partnered with Jingoli Power and Exelon Power in 2021.Â Â As a member of the Hispanic Association of Atlantic City, I also served onÂ their executive board. I have been recognized twice for my part as a donor partner at the Police Athletic League, both for my participation on the board of directors as well as our donations to the building repairs and projects. For my efforts and donations to rebuild the Spanish Community Center, I was given the Humanitarian Builders award by that organization in 2013. I was nominated by the Red Cross for my role as chairman of the â€œRide for Redâ€ community efforts to bring awareness to the need for Veterans medical services in 2010. I was appointed to the board of directors of my alma mater, Our Lady Star Of the Sea Regional School for my donated work and help at the school.
I have healthy relationships with our community and the city officials as a result of what I have been doing in business here for over 25 years. I have shown my ability to accomplish my goals, work hand-in-hand with everyone, and foster new stronger relationships. I am willing to put in the work necessary. I am always able to find the right person to get things done and navigate the way through the dark to help them find the light. I believe we need new leaders like me.
FRNJ: Tell me about your business and past activism in the community. How much did those things inspire you to run?
Geoff Dorsey: My business was born of necessity and then turbo boosted by a different necessity. As a boy, I would work with my stepfather making various repairs on houses that he owned for the tenants that he rented to. That became an end goal for me as well. My mother and he split during my teenage years but I remember one day I asked him why he worked a menial job when he didn’t need the money. And there was the life lesson. He said to me, “Son, I deliver medicine to seniors and they love me. Itâ€™s a job and I do it for the community. I have bonded with these people. I know their needs. I make sure that they are not forgotten.” Then, he said, “Now, you see this car I drive for the pharmacy? I own it. I own the other two as well. They pay me money for them as a lease. And they pay me to drive my own car as well. I make my own way and I do what I want and we always have a boss but I love what I do.” In that moment I realized a lot about life and not looking at things on their surface. I began to look deeper and try to understand and connect with people on a different level. If you ask me about people I say as Abe Lincoln said: “They are who you would be in their situation.” We have to take two steps back, view things from others’ perspectives, and give people the benefit of doubt because we never know why they made the decisions they made so it’s best to ask them rather than judge them.
FRNJ: I see you are a board member with the Hispanic Association of Atlantic County and member of the NAACP. Tell me about what led you to joining those organizations.
As a member of the Puerto Rican parade committee, as well as being married to a Puerto Rican woman, we have always been connected to the Latin community. My mother-in-law fosters children in Puerto Rico. Our daughter fosters children in Puerto Rico. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw such a need for more volunteers at food bank events. We heard the HAAC was reforming and rebuilding after being closed for some time. We partnered with Bert Lopez with the Boys & Girls Club as well as Friends in Action so we decided to join HAAC in an effort to help build a stronger Latino Community organization. My daughters, my wife, and I joined as a family and got more involved in an organization that was important to our family unit.
My overlap with other organizations like the NAACP allowed me to see there was a need for more young advocates, especially those with my skill set. Again, we joined as a family along with my stepbrother who is the general manager of Dorsey concrete division. My time and council has landed me the position of vice chair of the housing committee in less than one year.
FRNJ: I see you also serve The Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City as its safety and facilities chair and a member of Atlantic City PAL. Why do you like giving to those organizations?
Geoff Dorsey: I am a byproduct of the Boys & Girls Club. I attended the original building during my teen years and I have fond memories there. A friend, Dr. Scott Fuerman asked me to meet with the then CEO in 2018 about some lighting outside. During our meeting she told me she had a project they may be able to get funding for. The possible project was to build a front desk and partition wall, which she needed a price on to attempt to raise funds for the project.
After two weeks with the prints, I was happy to get back to her to tell her that I was able to utilize my sway with Home Depot to donate the parts and that I would donate the labor as well the lights along with the associated labor.Â It was from there that I started volunteering and donating to Boys & Girls Club. The following year, a new CEO was hired and when she had a project, she called me. We did a few small things for them and in 2020 we embarked on a brand new STEAM LAB Project, which had many partners. We donated work and materials and redesigned the plans to get the project done.Â [Dorsey said Thursday he helped break ground on a new youth STEAM Lab at Our Lady Star of the Sea this week.]
FRNJ: Who has and continues to inspire you?
Geoff Dorsey: My mother, whose integrity is impeccable. Her good name and reputation in the community has opened many doors for me because she was always the one to do for others but never ask for a favor in return. My wife is the fire in the night who keeps us on the right path home. Whether it is pitching in whenever needed or patience with me when I’m working all day and night. Even more so now with campaigning. She always reminds me to take family time off. My stepfather who helped raise me to be proper and respectful. My daughters, who are great mothers. One is on path to become a state trooper after she graduates with her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in December. My youngest is already volunteering at Boys & Girls Club at 18 and gaining valuable experience toward her goal of being a K-12 teacher. They show me that I have done good by them and if I’ve done nothing else, I’ve contributed 4 girls who will be good for the community.
FRNJ: Anything else you would like to add?
Geoff Dorsey: The time is now for EVERYONE TO OPENLY SUPPORT THE CANDIDATES THEY BELIEVE IN. We can no longer sit back and ride the sidelines through the primary, in fear of the angst of those who we didn’t support. We have to be adults and SPEAK UP for who is right. Then continue to do the same after the primary. For those who possibly do not support me now, I plan to make sure I extend the olive branch and shake hands to see how we can work together toward a common goal. We are competitors on this court, we are not enemies in the field of battle. We should all be thinking about the community and what’s best for them not ourselves.
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