Four current and former fire chiefs are running for two open Setauket Fire District commissioner seats, which will be decided in a Dec. 13 election at the Nicolls Road fire house between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The four candidates were given the opportunity to introduce themselves at the Dec. 5 meeting of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook.
Current fire department chief Brendan Brown and former chief Paul DiBiase are each seeking election to the five-year term. Former chiefs Bob Hoey and Kevin Yoos are each seeking election to the three-year term, which remained vacated when a previous commissioner resigned from the fire district board.
Hoey, who joined the Setauket Fire Department as a junior in 1978 and has been a certified EMT for 30 years, was appointed in September to that vacant seat. He finished his term as chief in 2008. He is employed on a regular basis with the Suffolk County Sherrif's Office, where for the past six years he has managed a fleet of 300 cars and has been involved in purchasing via state and county contracts.
"The board and the district already buy a lot [this way]," Hoey said. "I wanted to see if there are more areas we can look into for the everyday purchases."
Hoey also said he wants to continue to look for "a sympathetic ear" at Stony Brook University related to the fire coverage issues the district and department have felt.
"Past boards have tried to deal with Stony Brook," he said. "I think we need to keep on trying."
Yoos, currently a lieutenant with the Fire Department of New York and formerly a NYPD police officer, joined the Setauket Fire Department as a junior in 1984. He has also been a certified EMT for more than 20 years, is an instructor for the state's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and served as chief of the fire department in 2004, 2005, and 2009.
"I believe, along with many others, that I have the ability to work well with others and do what's best for the Fire Department, Fire District and our community," Yoos said. "As fire commissioner I plan on making educated decisions always keeping in mind how these decisions will affect the people of our community."
Each of the commissioner candidates have known each other for years, sometimes decades. Yoos said while it's difficult running against people who are friends, the community must come together as one.
"We need to work together and I think we can accomplish anything, whether we’re looking at a firehouse or new apparatus," he said.
Brown, the current fire department chief, is a 20-year member of the fire department and a certified EMT. Professionally, he works for the Town of Brookhaven's Highway Department, and has served as its union president overseeing a 280-person bargaining unit. He is running on a platform with several facets, including improving emergency response times by upgrading the dispatching system.
"We have the equipment, our dispatchers are trained, it would just involve recruiting another agency in Suffolk County," Brown said. "...We can do this. It can be done."
Brown's platform also includes dismantling a "nuisance alarm," which he said no longer has a function relevant to the everyday operation of the fire department, and working with Stony Brook University to address the fire coverage issue.
DiBiase has been an active member of the Setauket Fire Department for 20 years, and has in the past served in the capacity of lieutenant, captain, and chief. His said his education has focused on fire science, business management, and leadership skill building.
His platform includes refocusing a fire district that he said has failed to look ahead and that has created a culture of doubt within the community.
"Our current board has ceased to run in an efficient manner," DiBiase said. "...I feel that I will be an asset. I understand the needs. We as a community need to come together. We need to protect our fire department."