Jersey girl Liza Cartmell feels equally at home on the boardwalk and in the boardroom.
When Liza Cartmell was first tapped to lead Atlantic City’s grand revitalization project in 2011, her appointment seemed like nothing short of fate. “I was raised on the beach in Monmouth County. As a kid, I lived in the water; I loved picnicking on the beach and riding the waves,” says the president of the Atlantic City Alliance, a private nonprofit tasked with rebuilding AC’s image. “ It’s t he reason I took t he position—to make an impact in my hometown state, for such an important part of the economy, and for a beach community. It was the ultimate trifecta.”
A New Jersey native through and through, Cartmell’s resume screams overachiever. Her educational pedigree is impressive with an economics degree from Wellesley College (where she rowed crew) and an MBA from Columbia. But add 20 years leading the entertainment charge at Aramark, where she was Group President of Aramark Sports and Entertainment, and it’s clear that she’s a driven change agent.
Liza Cartmell with Mayor Don Guardian.
And she’s not the only one in her Haddonfield household to make a professional—and athletic—mark. Cartmell’s husband, Paul, is the state’s former First Assistant Attorney General, who played baseball and football for Princeton. Her 7’1” son Brian helped lead Duke University to the 2010 NCAA basketball championship. Daughter Sarah played basketball for Yale. Clearly the competitive spirit runs strong in Cartmell’s household.
Led by her Jersey-pride vision and $150 million in funding, the ACA is a marketing organization responsible for changing the public’s perception of Atlantic City from a casino-based gaming town into a premier, multi-night travel destination. “ACA made sense because I had a lot of experience running Aramark’s entertainment businesses and I was in charge of the national and state parks,” she says. “After the recession, they had to be marketed as destinations; before we never really had to do any marketing to bring in visitors. So it’s actually similar to what I’m doing now in AC.”
Cartmell’s experience in the entertainment industry is evidenced in her first large-scale and über-successful effort to change people’s perceptions about Atlantic City: the ubiquitous Do Anything, Do Everything, Do AC campaign. A $20 million a year multimedia advertising blitz that includes TV, radio, digital ads, and social media, the campaign highlights the best of AC. “I’ve been really happy with the results,” says Cartmell. “I started to see our DO AC magnets popping up all over the region on cars,” she says. “After that, I started to see knockoffs everywhere around town where people adapted the logo for their own uses... DO Bar, DO Beach, DO Shop, DO Fun.”
Liza Cartmell has helped AC rally with events like the DO AC Pro Beach Volleyball Invitational.
But Cartmell’s vision doesn’t begin and end with splashy ads. For her, it’s all about making sure that visitors have the same experiences she’s enjoyed her whole life. “There are so many wonderful gems here, places I just love. Of course you have White House Subs or Tony Boloney’s, but my personal favorite are the blueberry pancakes at Gilchrist Restaurant in Gardner’s Basin.”
Cartmell recommends the DO AC Sand Sculpting World Cup, held from June 19–July 6, the DO AC Pro Beach Volleyball Invitational September 5–7, and the summer’s end return of the Food & Wine DO AC Boardwalk Wine Promenade September 27–28, a vino lover’s event with more than 150 exclusive wines.
“Atlantic City offers the opportunity to create your own experience,” she says. “Visitors can do the beach thing where you’re barefoot and sandy, and then that night you put on your stilettos and go to a Wolfgang Puck or Bobby Flay restaurant, and head out to the club for an all-night party. And then the next day you’re back in your cutoffs dozing on the beach,” Cartmell laughs. Spoken like a true Jersey girl.