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Fire Commissioner incumbents ousted in Jamesport, Wading River

12/13/2017 1:14 PM |

Incumbents were unseated in fire commissioner races in Jamesport and Wading River Tuesday night, while Riverhead and Flanders saw quieter elections.

Jamesport voters elected newcomer Matthew Hattorff to a five-year term, ousting current board chairman Robert Sikora in a 127 to 77 vote.

The district faced some controversy this year when Jamesport firefighters were involved in a physical altercation at a fire scene in July that involved Commissioner Joseph Szot Jr., his son and Tom Brady, a former commissioner.

Mr. Hattorff said by phone Wednesday that several community members approached him about running for the board. “They wanted somebody who wasn’t associated with anybody,” he said. “They wanted somebody with a different outlook.”

Mr. Hattorff is not fire department member and never has been. For the last 31 years, he has worked for the Town of Riverhead and is a senior wastewater treatment plant operator. He also serves as president of the Riverhead chapter of the Civil Service Employees Association.

Winning by 50 votes, he said, was “humbling.”

John Newman was also elected Tuesday to a two-year term to fill the vacancy left by John Apicello’s early departure from the board. It was unclear why Mr. Apicello stepped down. Mr. Newman received 182 votes.

Mr. Hattorff said he and Mr. Newman have common interests in seeing some changes on the board, but they had not run together.

Barbara Blass, who served as a Riverhead Town councilwoman for eight years until 2009, ran unopposed for district treasurer and was elected to a one-year term with 162 votes.

She will fill the remainder of a three-year term held by Paul Epperlein, who died in April. District secretary Jessica

Harris has been serving as treasurer in the interim. Ms. Blass, who is retired, also serves as treasurer of Heidi’s Helping Angels, a nonprofit organization named for Heidi Behr, a Riverhead emergency medical technician killed in an ambulance crash in 2005.

Lastly, a proposition the board put on the ballot to change the treasurer from an elected position to an appointed one failed, 96 to 67.

Wading River

In a rematch of last year’s close vote in the Wading River Fire District, Michael Harrigan came out the victor this time. He defeated Randy Hintze Tuesday night by 145 to 96, a much wider margin than in 2016, when Mr. Hintze won a one-year term by just two votes.

Mr. Hintze’s 2016 win allowed him to serve out the remainder of the term of Thomas Lateulere, who died earlier that year. The election Tuesday was for a full five-year term. A total of 243 votes were cast, according to district secretary Steve Donnelly.

When Mr. Harrigan joins the board in January it won’t be his first time, as he previously served from 2014 to 2015.

Riverhead

Mark Conklin, vice chairman of the Riverhead Board of Fire Commissioners, was handily re-elected with 44 votes, secretary-treasurer Robert Zaweski reported. He ran unopposed for a five-year term. There were three write-ins; Tom Tobin received two votes and Robert DiLavore one.

Flanders

The Flanders fire chief will join the Flanders Fire District as a commissioner come 2018. John Lennon ran unopposed for a five-year term. Only 20 people turned out to vote, and Chief Lennon received 14 votes, secretary-treasurer Susan Kosinski said. Michael Spano, the current board chairman, was not seeking re-election, but received three write-in votes.

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