A contentious fire election saw voters come out in numbers more than double last year’s annual election, but the results were a close race to pick the next fire commissioners and budget for Toms River in District 1, and an overwhelming approval of incumbents and budget questions in District 2.
Ray Latshaw won the three-year seat as a commissioner in Toms River Fire District 1, ousting incumbent Doug Foley by 18 votes. Latshaw garnered 413 votes to Foley’s 395.
District 1, which is served by East Dover, Ocean Beach, and Toms River Fire Co. 1 & 2, also asked voters to approve a $7.3 million budget, and failed by less than 10 votes.
There were 399 no votes, and 383 voted yes.
However, all three of the special appropriation votes passed in District 1.
- A $450,000 apparatus purchase passed: 487 to 287.
- A $60,000 purchase of a breathing air cascade system passed: 538 to 232.
- A $48,750 appropriation for an emergency generator passed: 438 to 271.
The fire district that represents Silverton and Pleasant Plains had three races: two full terms and one unexpired term. There were five candidates running for the two seats, but all incumbents won.
Three year term, two seats:
- Incumbent Joe "Roger" Brown 564
- Incumbent Ken Taylor 543
- Challenger Don Lombardi 242
- Challenger Jason Wallace 220
- Challenger Alexander Wyatt Earp 97
In the unexpired term, Incumbent Thomas McCann won over Rich Heroy, 573 to 139.
District 2’s budget passed, 547 to 321. The $3.127 million budget had $2.891 million to be raised through taxes.
Each of the four appropriations questions also passed.
A $289,583 purchase of apparatus passed: 578 to 278.
A $800,000 purchase of an aerial ladder truck passed: 586 to 269.
A $400,000 renovation to the commissioner's office passed: 526 to 329.
A $26,250 appropriation toward a generator passed: 606 to 241.
This year's turnout for each district was more than double the voter turnout of last year.
The voter turnout in District 1 was higher than last year, but not higher than a referendum vote held in December.
The December referendum, which was a vote for a District 1 $1 million land buy only open to voters in that district, had 273 voting “yes” and 663 voting “no” — a total 936 votes cast. In the District 1 commissioner race in today's election, 808 votes were cast. That means 128 fewer people came out to today's election than they did for the December referendum.
District 2 Commissioner Taylor said he credits the high turnout with increased visibility of the election.
"This was a very large voter turnout," Taylor said. "The fact of the matter is the District 2 incumbents went out this year and educated the population on why they should vote for us, why they should pass the budget and questions."
This was different than previous years, when voters would often head to the voting booth seeing the names and monetary figures for the first time, Taylor said.
"A lot of people had no clue, but this year we were out there and got the word out," Taylor said.
Wallace, one of three challengers to incumbents Taylor and Brown, said earlier this week that his run for the commissioner's spot was a success even if he wasn't voted in.
"I think we're bringing up good points and shining a light on the inner workings of the fire district," Wallace said. "This is always a good thing."
Wallace said that as a result of the campaign the commissioners in district 2 reaffirmed they will not accept a $27,500 benefits package they are entitled.
"Savings of $27,000 here and there adds up for the taxpayer," Wallace said.
Taylor was grateful for voters and the hard work of his supporters.
"I'm proud of district 2," Taylor said. "They stepped up to the bat and did the right thing."