LIVINGSTON, NJ – The Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce (LACC) held its annual awards dinner ceremony on the evening of April 30 at the Westminster Hotel, located at 550 West Mt. Pleasant Ave.

This year, the LACC honored Westminster Hotel and Strip House as the Business of the Year and former Mayor Stephen Santola Esq. as Livingston Civic Leader of the Year. 

Also honored for their hard work and dedication to the Township of Livingston were Mary Oates, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Stacey Melhorn of the Livingston First Aid Squad, William “Bill” Raab as Firefighter of the Year and Officer Richard P. Howard Jr. as Police Officer of the Year.

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“It was a pleasure to present this year’s awards to all of the selected honorees,” said Monte Ehrenkranz, president of LACC.

“The event, which was hosted by Business of the Year Honorees, Westminster Hotel and Strip House was a well-attended, classy event where many positive comments were passed on to me about the quality of the food and gratitude of the host’s gift of a free one night weekend stay and next day brunch.”


Santola is currently the Executive Vice President and general counsel for Woodmont Properties and formerly a partner with Lindabury, McCormick & Estabrook.  During his professional career, Santola has served on various land use boards and has represented parties in various application appeals and related litigation.

Santola grew up in Livingston and returned as an adult with his wife Lisa and two sons Mathew and David in 1995.  He spent a total of 12 years serving on the Township Council and as Mayor of Livingston. 

While serving on the Council, Santola established the Open Space Commission and contributed to renovating the athletic fields.  He also formed a sports council and opened the first dog park in Essex County.  Santola currently serves on the Livingston Planning Board and chairs the Camuso Holiday Display committee.

The Westminster Hotel was also honored as the LACC’s Business of the Year.  Relatively new to the Livingston community, the award winning hotel opened its doors in 2002.  It features 183 luxury guest rooms and has over 16,000 square feet of banquet and conference space.  The hotel is an independent establishment and is owned and operated by Westminster Hospitality Group, an affiliate of Kushner Companies.

Since its arrival, the Westminster Hotel has contributed to the Livingston community by joining the LACC  and being involved in many philanthropic events including the New Jersey Wine and Food Festival to benefit the James Beard Foundation, Rotary Club of West Orange to benefit Student Scholarships & Local Service Organizations, Cooked and Uncorked to benefit Saint Barnabas Burn Foundation, Stroll & Roll to benefit the Kessler Foundation, A Tasteful Experience to benefit Clara Maass Medical Center, Cooking for Kids to benefit St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, Livingston Sunrise Rotary and the Montclair Food & Wine Festival.

The Strip House, which is located inside the Westminster Hotel was awarded 3.5 stars by NJ Monthly and is the winner of the Best of Essex Award in the Steak Restaurant Category for 2013.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Mary Oates was honored next for her long standing commitment to Livingston Public Schools.  Oates began her career in Livingston as the K-12 Math Supervisor in 1998 and was promoted to her current position in 2007. Oates is known to volunteer her extra time in the evenings and on weekends, has a regular attendance at National Night Out and is present at nearly every special event which involves children.

Livingston First Aide Squad member Stacey Melhorn was presented next and honored for her 13 years of service to the community as a first responder and as the recording secretary for the squad.   Among her many duties, Melhorn maintains official records, records meeting minutes, sends and receives communications and submits an annual report to the NJ First Aid Council.  In addition, Melhorn holds one of two lieutenant positions where she assists the captain in day to day operations of the organization.

William “Bill” Raab, Firefighter of the Year, was nominated for his “dedication and devotion” to the Township of Livingston through his service over the past 52 years. As a volunteer firefighter, Raab has held many positions over the years including warden, lieutenant, and captain.

Lastly, Officer Richard P. Howard Jr. was celebrated as Livingston Police Officer of the Year. Howard joined LPD in 1995 and his current primary assignment is in the Patrol Division where he has “distinguished himself as a very proactive officer over the past 18 years.”

Howard holds many law enforcement certifications and serves as a member of the LPD Emergency Services Unit.  He is also the recipient of numerous commendations from both the Livingston Police Department and the Essex County PBA.

The LACC reported that over 250 guests attended this year’s award dinner and over 30 local businesses donated items, prizes and gifts for the event.

“The Chamber is very appreciative to all of the Livingston businesses that donated gifts that we used to raffle and auction to help raise funds for our scholarship fund,” said Ehrenkranz.

Participating businesses included Beige & Blanc, Bernheim Apter Kreitzman Funeral Home, Brooklake Country Club, Calabria’s, Dry Clean Spot, Eastman Companies, George Press Jewelers, Godfathers Pizza, Handcrafters, Herman’s Auto Parts, High Country Sports, Il Ripasso, Jan Press/Photomedia, Jeffrey Optics, Just a Dream, Livingston Bagel, Livingston Camera, Livingston Chiropractic & Rehabilitation Center, Livingston Sonoco, Livingston Tire, Lucio’s Salon, Marie Bennett, Nana’s Deli, New Jersey Ballet, Philadelphia Pretzel Factory, PIP Printing, Pups@Play, Regal Bank, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Terzako Furs, Valley National Bank, Wine Legend and YMCA.

“We are hoping that the energy of the Award’s Dinner will continue with new attendees attending the Chamber’s Resource Breakfast hosted by and at Livingston Bagel this Thursday, May 8 from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m,” added Ehrenkranz.