Mayor talks state of town at chamber breakfast

Photo By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
West Orange High School Principal Oscar Guerreo, left, and Mayor Susan McCartney at the Chamber of Commerce annual Community Breakfast.

The West Orange Chamber of Commerce held its annual Community Breakfast on Feb. 15 at The Wilshire Grand Hotel.

Chamber president Tez Roro and event chair Paul Petigrow both spoke while Mayor Susan McCartney was the featured speaker, giving a state of the township address.

Petigrow said that this was a networking event to meet and greet others in the community. He shared a list of sponsors, including RWJ Barnabas Health and Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center.

Township historian, Joe Fagan, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

“Be mindful of all men and women in the world working to keep us safe and out of harm’s way,” he added.

Hannah Florendo sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Roro gave a short speech.

“We’re glad to get together again to connect high achievers of our town,” she said, before thanking the board of directors and board members for making meaningful contributions.

“Our mission is to provide resources and support for businesses to succeed and grow. My goal is to leave the organization better than I found it. We’ve made great progress together. As we pivot back to ‘in person’ (referring to coming out of the pandemic) get to know at least five persons. Support each other. We’re always open to hearing what the community at large are thinking.”

Before leading the attendees in prayer, Bishop Douglas Adams, founder of JOY (Jesus, Others, and Yourself) Church of God, said that his father, who was a “compulsive entrepreneur,” would be very impressed with this event.

“I learned from my father an important lesson about business and community,” he said. “Businesses of West Orange, you represent inter-dependency. If you dig in, commit and partner, West Orange will help you sustain your business for quite some time.”

McCartney, who became the first female mayor elected in 2022 and was chosen to serve 2023-2026, said, “It has been quite a ride this past year.”

She thanked the community for their commitment to shop and stay local. She also thanked dozens of people in the West Orange community during her State of the Town Address.

“I smile thinking about the town’s recreation department,” she said, and acknowledged the various charity golf tournaments and who they benefit.

She said that the fire and Emergency Medical Service crews in West Orange are the second busiest in Essex County, behind only Newark, with 7,580 calls in the past year.

“Good news continues to pour out of the police department,” she continued. “The police department increased commitment to defensive tactics training.”

McCartney also spoke about West Orange’s Vision Zero plans. Vision Zero is an international strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing mobility for all.

“Road safety aims to promote safe mobility for all,” she said.

Continuing, she spoke about the closing of The Manor and the recent opening of the new library.

“While closed most of the year, the library remained intact. With interior renovations, the library was open to the public. Exterior plans include a landscaping plain, a rain garden, and disability access,” McCartney said.

Photo By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
West Orange Township Historian Joseph Fagan leads the Pledge of Allegiance at a Chamber of Commerce meeting.

In animal news, Petco in West Orange will be expanding their vet services, an animal wellness center is approved for Turtle Back Zoo, and the planning board approved a Dogtopia pet care.

McCartney also noted that two longtime township employees passed away recently—Theresa DeNova, who worked with the West Orange Department of Health for over 40 years; and Joe Pelose who was with the Department of Public Works.

Senior Services was acknowledged for all they have to offer; aerobics, gardening, and Bingo to name a few.

“The list goes on,” said McCartney.

She remarked that West Orange’s Chamber, Rotary, Lion’s Club, African Heritage, and UNICO are “shining examples of committed community involvement.”
Students in the West Orange schools were acknowledged, and several came to the stage to share their accomplishments and dreams. “I will never tire of the achievements we have in our midst of shining stars,” said McCartney.

West Orange High School Principal Oscar Guerreo announced each student who came up to speak.

Adams returned to the podium to offer closing remarks and a benediction prayer for young people.

“It would be wonderful if our town facilitates and creates opportunities for young people to engage in community; for them to explore their dreams and practice skills before going out in the world,” Adams said.

Photo By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
Hannah Florendo sings ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast.
Photo By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
West Orange Chamber of Commerce President Tez Roro speaks at the organization’s annual breakfast.