Jim Whelan’s interest in swimming was kindled as a youngster by the Around the Island Swim, when the world’s best marathon swimmers would race the 22 miles around Atlantic City’s Island. As a teenager, he became a member of his high school swim team, and joined the Atlantic City Beach Patrol. As a member of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol and after his swim around Absecon Island he was instrumental in the re-establishment of the professional marathon race in Atlantic City. He later went on to Temple University, where he earned All-American honors, graduated in 1970 cum laude. He taught in Philadelphia and coached swimming at Temple, 1974-77.
In 1977, Whelan began teaching and coaching in the Atlantic City school system. In 1978, Whelan helped revive the Island Swim, which had been stopped in 1964, by swimming the Island solo. The following year, the race returned and it has been an annual event ever since.
In addition to providing the political clout that greatly assisted the promotion and support of the professional swim, Mayor Whelan fully supports masters and age group swims, such as the Miss America Pageant Swim in the Atlantic City. On another level, he has rowed a lifeguard escort boat the 23 miles around the Island while acting as the escort/coach for several swimmers. Two of his most noteworthy efforts include escorting Claudio Plit, the great Argentina Marathon swimmer several times and coaching Samantha Chabotar, a very promising young local swimmer to a first place as an amateur over some of the best professional swimmers in the world. His knowledge of the currents and tides have proved invaluable to many swimmers escorted.
Politically, Whelan was elected to the Atlantic City Council by a wide margin in 1982 and won re-election in 1986. Four years later, he was elected Mayor with 63 percent of the vote and took office on July 1, l990.
The Mayor’s terms have been marked by substantial progress in providing basic services to the residents of the casino resort. Mayor Whelan instituted a community policing program, embarked upon a multimillion dollar beautification of the city’s parks, playgrounds and major entranceways, and launched an aggressive demolition program that tore down hundreds of abandoned buildings.
In addition to his official duties, Mayor Whelan is Chairman of the Board of Atlantic City YouthBuild, a job training and education program for troubled young people, and a member of the boards of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Atlantic City Special Improvement District. The Mayor also is a member of the New Jersey Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission.
As Mayor, Whelan continues to support swimming, competing in local open water swims; this past year, the City hired its first aquatics director, Sid Cassidy, to begin an inner-city competitive swim program.
Mayor Whelan is married to Kathy Brooks a former teacher with the Pleasantville, New Jersey, school system.