Fire Commissioners Election Heats Up

December referendum results having an impact, candidates say

Though in previous years the Toms River fire district elections have been a broad spectrum of uncontested and multiple contested races, the incumbents this year said the scope of this race is different than previous.

"It's become political," said District 2 incumbent Ken Taylor. "I've never seen anything like it."

Contested Seats in Both Districts

In District 1, there is one seat for a three-year term. Incumbent Doug Foley faces challenger Raymond Latshaw. District 1 is comprised of residents served by East Dover, Ocean Beach, Toms River Fire Co. No. 1 and No. 2 fire houses.

In District 2, there are three seats: two seats are a three-year term, and the third is the unexpired term created by the death of Gary Licknack. District 2 is comprised of residents served by Pleasant Plains and Silverton fire houses.

The District 2 unexpired term candidates are incumbent Thomas McCann and challenger Richard Heroy.

In the three-year term, five candidates are vying for two seats in District 2. Incumbents Ken Taylor and Roger “Joe” Brown face challengers Jason Wallace, Don Lombardi Jr. and Alexander Wyatt Earp.

Increased Campaigning

The commissioner's annual election is considered a nonpartisan contest, but both challenger and incumbent accused their opponents of being aligned with local politicians.

Taylor said for the first time he's seen candidates buy lawn signs and distribute mailers. Now for this election nearly all candidates have participated in campaigning materials.

Taylor and McCann said it's not something they are used to.

"We're not politicians. We're fire fighters," McCann said. "Our motivations are to serve the taxpayer and provide the best fire service. That's it. We're not here to get rich, be misleading or anything like that."

District 2 challenger Wallace said he believes challengers are at a disadvantage in getting a campaign message out, as they have the hurdle of often being lesser-known than an incumbent that might have been serving for years.

"We're using our own money, and are pooling our resources to try and get the information out there," Wallace said.

Wallace said the issue is not politics but simply the improvement of fire district operations.

"We want to get people thinking: 'Is this the best way to get things done?'" Wallace said. He's calling for more transparency in the fire commissioner operations.

"Widespread Misinformation"

The four incumbents said they were concerned about the messages they've seen in mailers, in letters and otherwise being passed around.

McCann, Taylor and Brown — the District 2 incumbents— said they are being lumped in with District 1, which is the first discrepancy they see. The districts have separate budgets and commissioners voted on by the public.

But they and Foley said they were also concerned by accusations saying the commissioners are overspending or being misleading.

“I’m here to answer any questions the public may have,” Foley said. “We’re open.”

Taylor said “every dime is accounted for.” Instead of padding the budget, the District 2 budget is instead efficent and also lower than last year.

The criticisms the commissioners have faced are what challengers Wallace, Lombardi and Latshaw said were high salaries for district staff, and unnecessary spending on travel.

For example, the three challengers are circulating a bill that claims Foley spent more than $900 on a meal during an out-of-state conference. Foley said it’s not true, that reimbursement is limited to $65 a day.

Wallace said there’s also been some misinformation about him. “I don’t have a vendetta. I’m not hoping to go in and slash and burn and cut services.”

He said he doesn't esteem to use the fire commissioners as a stepping stone to a political office elsewhere.

"I'm trying to strike a balance between the taxpayers and the firefighters," he said.

District 1 Versus 2

McCann, Taylor and Brown are campaigning as incumbents for District 2. In District 1, incumbent Foley has created his own campaign materials.

There's also three candidates running on one set of campaign materials although they are in different districts: Wallace and Lombardi in District 2 and Latshaw in District 1.

Taylor and McCann took issue with the campaign materials of Lombardi, Wallace and Latshaw, saying it was confusing to create one message for races only open for one district. There's a separate ballot whether you are in District 1 or 2, so the combined material is confusing, they said.

Silverton Fire Department Chief Bob Sinnott said that the managerial style between the districts is different.

"We have a different history, we have a different way of doing things," Sinnott said. "We are one brotherhood, out on calls together, but the commissioners do disagree on business."

For example, McCann and Taylor said District 2 did not hold a December referendum and instead opted to hold appropriation questions for this weekend's vote.

Impact of December Referendum

Saturday’s election day comes just about two months after a December referendum in District 1 asked voters to approve a land buy for a new firehouse. The move was overwhelmingly vote down by residents of District 1. The referendum saw a much larger turnout than the annual election.

The challengers said there is certainly a spillover from the disapproval of the referendum into this election.

“After seeing that, it’s clear people want to get more involved, know what is going on in the fire districts,” Wallace said.

But having these sentiments spill over into District 2 is an unfair comparison, incumbents McCann and Taylor said.

"It's a jet wash," McCann said. District 2 had nothing to do with the December referendum. It was an issue for District 1, as the new firehouse would have served residents in District 1. District 2 is comprised of Silverton and Pleasant Plains.

Wallace said the turnout for the December referendum could lead to increased voter participation Saturday.

"People are just mad they don’t get answers to their questions," Wallace said. "People get frustrated, and they'll come out to vote."

Johnny Cobbler February 18, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Because 4 cents to every dollar you pay in taxes for your fire tax is so much god you people are ridiculous honestly you pay more in school taxes and other crap. Hey let’s start a fight there nah lets listen to the Sheppard and pick on men who know what they are doing and are trying their best with little support they have. Why not let new people in? let’s see these new people 1 put out political propaganda that was nothing but straight up bull from cover to cover and all 3 of the people challenging were asked and questioned about them and said " I never approved that to go out" "I never put my name to that" yet their faces and names were plastered all over that crap. 2 were given the chance to stand up and prove that what they all said was true at the open public forum and the responses from all of them were Don Lombardi " A waste of my time I'm not interested" Wow so listening to the public and answering questions they might have is a waste of time well good to know Mr. Lombardi that the public you want to serve you called them a waste of time. Jason wallace " I can’t go because I didn’t know about it" You were told about it Monday, "I have planned something already that night I have a relief meeting" You mean the meeting you had Wednesday night and said it was Thursday? Good to know you have circles to run around the public, politicians need that. I think the only person who hasent said an ill word is Wyatt Earp.
Johnny Cobbler February 18, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Mr. Latshaw “My work load is overwhelming me" oh so you missed all the commissioners meetings and this open public forum but you will be able to make EVERY commissioners meeting and joint meeting if elected? “ I might have to change my schedule" For whatever reasons call it a hunch I don’t believe you. Drucillia Demiglia really a bunch of whimpy wanna be's god didn’t know we were talking to a 4th grader but if you are digressing to the best days of your life cause lord knows you aren’t going to do any better than 4th grade even if you call those men who have a combined 100+ years in the fire service and done more notable things then you ever will sitting there in your bean bang chair eating cheetos and call them "wanna be's" I’d bet any person here that they are proud of those " wanna be's" more so then your never was butt oh no I said butt oops I did it again I said butt.... dang it.
Mike Mooney February 18, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Just checked my taxes for the year and yep my fire tax is less than $120 dollars pretty cheap if you ask me.
BN February 18, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I'd like to know how the hell someone named Gary Clifton got my personal e-mail. He sent me some BS about voting for Alex Earp. I hope the patch isn't giving out this data!
Catherine Galioto February 18, 2012 at 07:05 PM
No. We are not.


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