Home » Sarah Staszewski Interviews Shelee McIlvaine

Sarah Staszewski Interviews Shelee McIlvaine


The economic fate of Atlantic City is in few hands now. The ailing shore town has been hit with blow after blow—in the past year, four casinos have shut down. This is leaving residents without jobs and giving the city almost an abandoned feel, as towering casinos once in their heyday are closing their doors to guests and employees. Our class with Christina Jackson has provided us with an amazing opportunity to speak directly with the people who are getting hit the hardest: Atlantic City residents.

We were broken into teams of about four or five students per interviewee and reviewed the interview schedule to make sure we would get the right message across with our interview style. Then, we were off. Armed with recording devices, we began interacting with our guests. Our interviewee, a Galloway native by the name of Shelee, believed that the biggest setback for Atlantic City was the reliance on the “casino economy”. She believes that Atlantic City should start to focus their advertising on entertainment that is geared toward all ages—essentially, Atlantic City should start to align themselves as a family destination. It has all the assets: beautiful beaches, a shopping district, and a fascinating history.

The biggest problem Shelee acknowledged was the Atlantic City Takeover Bill. For readers who do not know what the Takeover bill is, it means that the state of New Jersey will now take charge of Atlantic City’s finances to avoid the entire city going bankrupt. As an astute Atlantic County native, she knows this spells trouble. She expressed that she does not have faith in the plan for the state to manage Atlantic City’s finances. “How can a few people in North Jersey possibly know what to do for Atlantic City?” she remarks. She believes that the Takeover bill means that the fate of Atlantic City is in one person’s hands—and, that they are making profit from this.

In our class, Dr. Jackson surrounds her lectures on four fundamental and powerful concepts: power, environment, behavior, and interaction. As our group heard from Shelee, these four words came to mind. The issue with Atlantic City has to do with distribution of power—who the state believes can make the right decisions about Atlantic City differs from the beliefs of residents. It also has to do with environment and behavior. Atlantic City was once only one of two cities in all of America that had legalized gambling in casinos. The reliance on a casino economy geared the whole city toward working in the casinos and making sure they were the best place for guests. When other cities began to catch up, Atlantic City’s main attraction was threatened.

Ultimately, Atlantic City residents do not know what is coming next. I believe Shelee reflects the sentiment of all Atlantic City residents. They are weary of the Takeover bill and there is a sense of mistrust for the state government. This could stem from the way NJ responded to the Superstorm Sandy disaster, as homes are still in a state of utter disrepair and state grants are not being allotted to the most vulnerable residents. In light of this, Shelee remarked that she has faith in the future of Atlantic City. She believes it will take the unity and comradery of Atlantic City residents to take back their home.