Fire districts across Southampton Town will be holding their commissioner elections this Tuesday, December 11, and, locally, only Hampton Bays and East Quogue have contested races. Voting runs from 6 to 9 p.m. at each district’s respective firehouse.
In Hampton Bays, incumbent fire commissioner Kevin Kenny will have to stave off a challenge from Jeremy Brandt, the owner of a small business called Brandt Plumbing, in order to win his second five-year term.
Mr. Kenny joined the Hampton Bays Fire Department in 1999 as a firefighter. Prior to stepping down last year, he served as vice president of the Hampton Bays Fire Department Benevolent Association. His wife, Christine, has served as treasurer of the Hampton Bays Fire District since 1998. They have two children, ages 16 and 14.
Mr. Kenny is the information technology manager for a medical billing company associated with Stony Brook Medicine, and has been the co-owner of the UPS store on West Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays since 2004.
“I enjoy working with the current board, the employees, the fire chiefs and the men and women that make up the HBFD, and I want to continue to make an impact on the community,” Mr. Kenny wrote in an email.
He added that the board has reduced the fire department’s operating budget by more than 18 percent since 2009. “I understand our role in balancing our fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers while making sure we have provided the department with the training, tools and leadership necessary to make sure all of our volunteers return home safely after a call.”
Mr. Brandt, 36, is a Sag Harbor native who moved to Hampton Bays with his wife, Melissa, in 2005. He owns and operates a small plumbing business and the couple has a 2-year-old son, Bradley.
“I look across most fire districts and it’s a mixture of members of the fire department and small business owners, and Hampton Bays is one of the only ones where that is not the case,” he said, referring to the makeup of the board of fire commissioners. He added that as a small business owner, he would add a new perspective to the Hampton Bays Fire District.
If elected, Mr. Brandt said he would work to make sure that every dollar of the budget was spent efficiently “so that the volunteers—the men and women who are most important—get everything they need to keep the community safe.”
Mr. Brandt explained that his family members were involved in the Sag Harbor Fire Department while he was growing up, but he was never able to volunteer because his business required so much of his time. “This is kind of my way of contributing back,” he said.
His bid marks his first run for public office. Over the summer, Mr. Brandt announced that he would try to unseat State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. this fall, only to withdraw from the race six weeks later. Mr. Brandt said he was forced to abandon his attempt after Suffolk County Republican Party Chairman John Jay LaValle refused to sign paperwork giving Mr. Brandt the Republican line.
In East Quogue, lifelong hamlet resident Jonathan Erwin is seeking his third, five-year term as fire commissioner. But in order to serve again, he must first overcome a challenge from fellow lifelong East Quogue resident Michael Kohler, a longtime department volunteer and a former captain.
Mr. Erwin, 47, joined the East Quogue Fire Department after being discharged from the U.S. Navy. The former chief has served as a firefighter, lieutenant and captain. He is currently the director of parks and maintenance for Southampton Town, a position that he has held for six years. He and his wife, Faith, have a 17-year-old son, Patrick.
“We’d like to keep the tax rate down as best we can and try to improve on our fire and EMS services that we provide here,” Mr. Erwin said, adding that he is proud that East Quogue is one of the only local departments that provide both fire and EMS services, which saves taxpayers money.
His challenger, Mr. Kohler, is making his first bid for commissioner and has been a member of the fire department for 16 years. He has three children, ages 20, 22 and 25.
Mr. Kohler, 42, who works as a custodian for the North Sea Fire District, said two of his uncles have served as fire commissioners in East Quogue. “It’s been in the family, and I have always been really interested in helping the community, so I’m taking it the next step further by running for commissioner,” he said.
Fred Overton, 81, is seeking his third, five-year term as commissioner of the Westhampton Beach Fire District. The lifelong village resident has served as a commissioner for the past 11 years; he served a one-year term following the creation of the district in 2001 and was elected to the board twice, once in 2002 and again in 2007.