WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Township of West Orange kicked off 2017 by celebrating the many accomplishments of 2016 during the 43rd Annual Mayor’s Breakfast on Wednesday, hosted by the West Orange Chamber of Commerce (WOCC).

Held at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in West Orange, the annual breakfast invites local dignitaries, members of the business community and members of the public to enjoy a hot meal as they interact with Mayor Robert Parisi, who each year recognizes community members for their accomplishments.

Among those recognized at the breakfast were Monsignor Michael Kelly for Citizen of the Year; retiring Fire Chief Pete Smeraldo for Employee of the Year; West Orange Firefighter Phil Johnson for heroic actions; and Vietnam Veterans Joe Brennan, Kim Ameli and Al Hughes.

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Outstanding West Orange High School (WOHS) students recognized included Bryce Millington; Sophia Adelson, Abraham Dada; Mariel Go; Janiva Peters, Ciara Racanelli, Emily Sanchez, Peyton Smith, Carolyn Yip and Derek Lim. In addition, WOHS senior Andrei Rosu was acknowledged for committing to the United States Military Academy at West Point and members of the WOHS marching band and cheerleading squad were acknowledging for outstanding seasons.

“Though I may be repeating myself again this year, I don’t think I will ever tire of honoring and recognizing the achievements of our West Orange students,” said Susan McCartney, chair of the chamber’s annual breakfast and an educator for more than 20 years.

In his opening statements, Parisi first recognized the men and women of local government for the work they do each day see that West Orange neighborhoods are clean and safe and that the township continues to provide its residents with every opportunity to “enjoy a happy and peaceful life here in West Orange.” 

“But as much as local government remains the backbone of this community, our schools, the children of West Orange that bring them to life remain the pride of our community,” he said.

According to Parisi, there is currently a WOHS alumnus at the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy and the United States Military Academy at West Point simultaneously for the first time in West Orange history. In the fall, current WOHS senior Andrei Rosu will join them as he enters West Point as well.

Parisi congratulated Rosu and the others, as he said these alumni carry with them the lessons and experiences forged within the hallways of West Orange schools and the neighborhoods of the community.

Parisi also congratulated the WOHS Mountaineers Marching Band, which “once again showed that talent, hard work and a commitment to each other is a winning combination.” The Marching Mountaineers earned the US Bands Group Five New Jersey State Championship and the National Championship for their 2017 Program, “Defying Gravity.”

“It says a lot about the members of the band when one of the most common complaints we receive from neighbors each year is that the band practices too long,” said Parisi. “In addition to the more than 100 members, the success of the Marching Band is under the direction of Director Lewis Kelly and Associate Directors Erin Lagatic and Joshua Zimmer with Drum Majors Divya Anand and Jax Apollon.”

Coached by Olivia DelSpina and Assistant Coach Anna D’Elia, who were joined by a handful of WOHS cheerleaders at the breakfast, the WOHS varsity cheerleading team was recognized for repeatedly rising to the challenge and demands of modern cheerleading. 

“Their dedication and hard work paid off again this year as the girls have been recognized with multiple first place finishes in multiple tournaments, in conference, regionals and at the UCA JV, Medium Varsity and Varsity State Championships,” said Parisi, who also mentioned that these accomplishments qualifying the team for the Championships in Orlando, FL in February and the New Jersey State Championships in March.

As she thanked the Wilshire Grand Hotel and banquet manager Suzanne Fekete for graciously hosting the event once again, McCartney said that WOCC membership continues to grow as it adds more benefits and networking opportunities like this one that help local businesses to grow.  

“West Orange has been touted as the Wedding Capital of the World but with this chamber event and, according to our fire department, with this number of guests, we have outgrown many of the other banquet facilities in town,” she said.

McCartney also thanked the breakfast committee and WOCC Executive Director Brittany Chiles, who she said has “proven over the past year to have that knack for molding & shaping ideas into worthwhile programs.”

“The Mission Statement of the West Orange chamber has always been to shop, eat and stay local,” said McCartney. “Though I am no longer the chamber president, I will continue to strive as a board member for the chamber to continue to form more and more community partnerships…and provide additional networking opportunities to help strengthen our businesses and our local organizations.”

The 2017 WOCC executive board includes: Timothy H. Brennan, President; Sally Malech, Vice President; Dr. Ron Silikovitz, Secretary; Tina Parsons, Treasurer; and Brittany S. Chiles, Executive Director.