Steven L. “Steve” LaMantia ’81 has a long and proud legacy with agriculture. His grandfather immigrated to the United States as a child and settled in Chicago. He later owned and operated one of the largest produce terminals in the US and had many joint ventures with farmers in Texas. Steve’s father moved to Texas to work soon after graduating from high school. He grew their farming ventures with farms in the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, Carrizo Springs, West Texas, and throughout Mexico, and subsequently began ranching in South Texas. Steve, the fourth of five children, was born in San Antonio and lived in Carrizo Springs before his family moved to McAllen in 1965. Upon graduating from high school in 1977 where he played football, ran track, swam and showed hogs and steers through FFA, Steve attended West Texas University before transferring to Texas A&M University 1979. He played intramural sports while at A&M and worked on a ranch just outside of College Station while in school. Summers and breaks were spent working in the family’s packing shed in Weslaco.
After graduating from Texas A&M University in 1981, Steve joined his family’s farming business, LaMantia, Cullum & Collier, where he managed farms in the Rio Grande Valley and throughout Texas, as well as Mexico and Chile, where he grew fruits, vegetables, and cotton under the name of Sugar Sweet. During this same time, he managed the company’s packing shed and sales. Steve partnered with Texas A&M University through the Agriculture Extension office growing TAMdews, TAMmelons, and 1015 onions. In the 80s, Steve began a joint venture in Chile, growing fruits and vegetables, mostly raspberries. He opened an office in Miami and distributed the Chilean produce from there across the US. Soon after, he partnered with Pillsbury in a joint venture with his Chilean operation. The family also ventured into the pecan growing and shelling business in the 80s. In 1988, Steve closed the farming business and went to work for Utopia, a home and office water delivery company, a new company the family had purchased in Laredo which subsequently led him to work for L&F Distributors when they purchased the Anheuser-Busch wholesaler distributorship in 1990.
What began as a family business with a single location in McAllen and less than 20 employees, the LaMantia family has grown L&F Distributors to eight distribution warehouses, which services 35 counties throughout Texas and Southern New Mexico, and employs more than 1,200 people. Today, Steve serves as Vice President and general manager of L&F Distributors. As L&F’s markets grew, so did its portfolio; L&F now represents more than 150 craft and import breweries, and distributes an extensive list of wine and spirits. To further diversify its portfolio, L&F began to distribute water, milk, energy drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages in 2011. That same year, Steve, along with his family, started a new venture, Favorite Brands, distributing wine and spirits throughout Texas and New Mexico.
In addition to his responsibilities with L&F and Favorite Brands, Steve helps run Needmore Ranch, a family-owned ranching business. He manages a 500-head-yearling calf operation, a game-managed hunting production, and a thousand acres of cultivated farmland.
For the past 25 years, one of Steve’s passions has been officiating football. He began officiating middle school football and soon found himself officiating on Friday nights for high school varsity games. In 2004, Steve was selected to officiate Division III college football and in 2006, was hired by Arena Football II as a referee. In 2008, Steve was hired to officiate in Conference USA for Division I college football. He is currently a referee in Conference USA.
In 2003, upon joining forces with family, friends and respected business leaders, Steve helped establish a non-profit organization, STARS (South Texas Academic Rising Scholars), which provides scholarships to students from South and West Texas to attend the college of their choice. STARS partners with hundreds of local and national businesses, organizations, colleges and universities and together, with STARS’ family of dedicated volunteers, has raised over $25 million, awarding scholarships to more than 12,500 students from South and West Texas.
Volunteering his time, Steve served as Chairman of the Board of Laredo Medical Center from 2003-2014. He has served on numerous civic boards including the Washington’s Birthday Celebration (President, 1998), Laredo Chamber of Commerce, Border Olympics, Cola Blanca, and the Laredo A&M Club. Steve serves on the Mr. South Texas Selection Committee as well as the Caballeros de la Republica del Rio Grande, and Texas Association of Sports Officials where he served as President of the Laredo chapter in 1995 and 1996. He has volunteered as a coach with the Gateway Softball League, the Boys and Girls Club and St. Augustine High School. Additionally, Steve served on the UT Health Science Center-San Antonio Board and President’s Council and the State Bar Grievance Committee. He is a knight in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and a member of St. Patrick’s Parish.
A member of The Association of Former Students’ Board of Directors, Steve has been a Century Club member for 29 years. He served as President of the McAllen A&M Club in 1989 and for many years, has hosted the Laredo A&M Club Muster at his ranch outside of Laredo. In addition, Steve is a member of the 12th Man Foundation. He is a guest speaker annually at Texas A&M University – International, speaking to Kinesiology majors about officiating.
Steve was named the Laredo International Fair and Exposition’s Rancher of the Year in 2012 and inducted into the Latin American Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2010, he was honored as the Laredo Business Person of the Year by the Laredo Chamber of Commerce as well as the AFCS Conservationist of the Year. In 2006, Steve was awarded the Paul Harris Fellow Award by the Laredo Rotary Club and in the same year, the Mayor’s Spirit of Laredo Award. In 2005, Steve was named the Max Mandel Humanitarian by the Laredo Chamber of Commerce and was inducted as Business Laureate of the Year by Junior Achievement. Steve received the Tejano Achiever’s Award from LULAC #12 in 1997 and the Matias de Llano Award from the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association in 1995. He was awarded The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in 2003 and Grand Cross in 2013.
Steve and his wife of 32 years, Linda ’82, have five daughters: Ann ’08 and son-in-law Casey, both attorneys; Morgan, also an attorney; Katie ’10, an insurance agent; Samantha ’12, sales manager with Favorite Brands; and Molly ’15, a senior at Texas A&M. Steve and Linda have two granddaughters: Avery and Blair.
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