McClellan Leaves City Council Amid Praise, Tears

first_imgBy DONALD WITTKOWSKICouncilman Antwan McClellan promised he wouldn’t cry. Moments later, his voice choked up with emotion and the tears began to roll down his cheeks.“I was not going to cry, but I blew it,” he joked.He was not alone. During an emotional meeting, members of City Council tearfully said farewell Thursday night to McClellan as he prepares to leave the governing body to take a seat next week in the state Assembly.McClellan, 45, who has represented Ocean City’s Second Ward since 2012, won election in November as part of a Republican team with Sen. Michael Testa and Assemblyman-elect Erik Simonsen that captured control of the First Legislative District representing Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic counties.In thanking his colleagues for their support and guidance over the years, McClellan vowed he would always keep Ocean City in his heart while representing the district at the Statehouse in Trenton“I love you. I respect you. I love Ocean City, and I’ll wear this wherever I go,” he told his Council colleagues, referring to a shirt emblazoned with the Ocean City logo.He added, “I’m still going to represent Ocean City well.”During his last City Council meeting, McClellan stood next to his mother, Cola Mae McClellan, and his fiancée, Angela Mason, as a proclamation was read in his honor by Council President Peter Madden. Gathered around them were the other Council members and Mayor Jay Gillian.The proclamation praised McClellan for his roles over the years as an elected official, community volunteer, church leader, athletic coach, youth mentor and former member of the Board of Education, among other positions he has held.“(He) has served City Council, the Second Ward and all of Ocean City with honor and distinction since 2012, acting as a quiet leader with a level head and even hand,” it read.Members of City Council and Mayor Jay Gillian join Antwan McClellan while a proclamation is read in his honor by Council President Peter Madden, at left.McClellan embraced his mother after the proclamation was read. In an interview after the meeting, his mother noted that she was “very proud” of her son.In addition to joining the Assembly as a new member, McClellan is also preparing for his Oct. 24 wedding to Angela Mason, 43.“It warms my heart to see all of the love for him and how he has been embraced by the community,” Mason said in an interview.McClellan will be sworn into the Assembly on Jan. 14. He has already made history by becoming the first African-American elected to represent the First Legislative District and will be the first African-American Republican lawmaker in the state Legislature since 2002, according to media reports.His Council colleagues predicted he will become an exemplary state lawmaker. Speaking one at a time, they gave him a warm send-off that was filled accolades, humor and plenty of tears.They often choked back emotion while talking about their deep friendship with McClellan and the love and respect they have for him as a public official and community leader.“Antwan, there’s no better person than you to do this,” Councilman Bob Barr said, pledging his love and support for McClellan as he embarks on his Assembly career.Councilman Tony Wilson also expressed his love for McClellan and said he considers him part of his family.“I’m a better man for having you in my life,” Wilson told McClellan as he fought back tears.Madden, also close to tears, simply said to McClellan, “I love you. I’ll miss you.”Antwan McClellan joins fellow Council member Keith Hartzell in prayer at the start of the meeting.In his prayer to start the meeting, Councilman Keith Hartzell called on God to guide and protect McClellan during a “turbulent time of politics” in the Statehouse.Hartzell said the people in Ocean City know that it was “no accident” that God “picked Antwan to go to Trenton.”“Politics is a contact sport,” said Hartzell, while comparing Trenton to the major leagues of politics.“If anyone’s prepared for the major leagues, you are,” Hartzell said to McClellan.Councilwoman Karen Bergen praised McClellan for serving with “grace, dedication and compassion.”“They need people like you in Trenton,” Bergman said.Councilman Michael DeVlieger made similar remarks, telling McClellan that “Trenton needs you. We need you in Trenton.”“I’ve never met a person who had a more pure heart and clearer mind than you,” DeVlieger said to McClellan.From left, Councilmen Bob Barr, Antwan McClellan and Keith Hartzell share a light moment.Mayor Gillian caused the Council Chambers to erupt in laughter when he joked that all of the accolades showered on McClellan made it sound like “Moses is going to walk up.”Gillian spoke of how McClellan has become a “statesman” of public service who avoided partisan politics by following his conscience.“Be that statesman. Don’t worry about that party line,” Gillian urged of McClellan when he joins the Assembly.Earlier in the meeting, McClellan thanked Gillian and members of his administration for their support during his time on Council.“I’ve learned a lot from you, Jay. You’ve been with me the whole time,” McClellan said.It was then that his tears began to flow. City Councilman and Assemblyman-elect Antwan McClellan expresses his thanks during his last City Council meeting while joined by his fiancee, Angela Mason, and his mother, Cola Mae McClellan.last_img read more