Two long-time members of Livingston’s township council bid farewell last night.
Mayor Stephen Santola and Councilman Gary Schneiderman are leaving the dais behind after 12 years of service on the township council. They will be replaced by Al Anthony and Michael Silverman on Jan. 1.
Elected in 2001, both men were elected after serving on the planning board. Both of them climbed the ranks to serve as mayor at one point.
"During the 12 years, not all of their decisions have been easy and not all of them have been popular, but they have always made them in the best interest of the community,” said Deputy Mayor Rudy Fernandez, who is expected to replace Santola as mayor on Jan. 1, the second time he has served in that capacity.
Various former mayors and members of the council attended the meeting to pay tribute to Santola and Schneiderman. Most of them lamented on the joys of post-council life.
“In the old days, I had the privilege of serving with you on the council,” said former Mayor Ellie Cohen. “You’ve been wonderful representatives of the community and I promise you, there is a wonderful life awaiting you after Monday nights.”
Another former Livingston Mayor Jeff Dollinger welcomed the two to the club of “has-been mayors,” joking with them they will not be experiencing bad press anymore.
“From this point on, as long as you don’t speed and as long as you don’t shoplift, you will never hear your name in a bad light again in the newspaper,” Dollinger said to laughs.
Essex County Freeholder Pat Sebold, who also serves as the chairperson of the Livingston Democratic Party, thanked Santola and Schneiderman for the work they have done on behalf of Livingston and the Democratic party.
“How much you have given of your time and your effort to make Livingston the town that it is,” said Sebold. “It is because of 12 years of your time and effort that we are where we are today. We are becoming a better and better town and it’s because of people like you who are willing to give your time and your effort to work hard for the best interests of Livingston.”
One of the accomplishments both men mentioned in their farewell speeches was the improved relationship between the Livingston Board of Education and the township council.
Bonnie Granitir, who is leaving her seat on the board of education this month, thanked both men for their work in improving the relationship.
“I know how difficult it is to put your neck out on the line and be the one standing out there, but you have done it with a lot of grace,” Granitir said to the outgoing members of council.
Schneiderman brought pictures of him and his family from every reorganization meeting since he has been on council. He said he tried hard to make sure being on the council didn't interfere too much with his family life.
Santola said he was happy with what he and Schneiderman accomplished in their 12 years on the dais.
"I hope it's true that the decisions that we made over the past 12 years will benefit the community," said Santola. "If that's true, I'll never think for a minute that we ever wasted any time up here."