N.J. lawmaker Jim Whelan remembered as man of integrity, champion for Atlantic City

 New Jersey state Sen. Jim Whelan, who died Tuesday at his Atlantic City home, is being remembered as a man of integrity and courage. (AP file photo)

New Jersey state Sen. Jim Whelan, who died Tuesday at his Atlantic City home, is being remembered as a man of integrity and courage. (AP file photo)

Five months before he was planning to retire, New Jersey state Sen.  Jim Whelan has died after suffering a heart attack at his Atlantic City home.

State officials are remembering him as a dedicated public servant.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said Whelan was a role model for lawmakers.

“He seemed to be able to be part of the team, be part of the unified effort, and yet signal out the things that were important to him — even if it was going against the tide a bit,” she said. “He was an eminently decent man, full of integrity.”

Whelan, who was 68, served three terms as mayor of Atlantic City before losing a re-election bid in 2001. He won a state Assembly seat in 2005 before being elected to the state Senate two years later.

Whelan was an effective legislator and an untiring advocate for Atlantic City, said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

“You’re seeing Atlantic City starting to really turn itself around, and it’s because Jim Whelan didn’t take the political posturing. He took the tough stance in support of the takeover of Atlantic City’s government,” Sweeney said. “He didn’t take any passes on anything.

“Whenever there was a tough issue, Jim Whelan didn’t sit on the sidelines. He was always willing to step up.”

Gov. Chris Christie said Atlantic City’s progress toward a comeback is due in no small part to Whelan’s efforts and passion.

While he didn’t always agree with him on policy, Christie called Whelan “a forthright and honest leader who was always willing to listen.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.