James Whelan was the Mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey. As a member of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol he was instrumental, after his swim around Absecon Island in the re-establishment of the professional race in Atlantic City. 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 (23 miles) and has been the escort/coach for several swimmers including Claudio Plit and Samantha Chabotar. His knowledge of the currents and tides have proved invaluable to many swimmers escorted.
Whelan was the 1993 recipient of the Glen S. Hummer Award recipient, an award given to the individual who makes the greatest contribution to the open water swimming in the United States.