Written by Victoria Caruso-Davis Monday, 07 December 2009 13:01
2009 marks the first year Hicksville residents will be able to elect a fire commissioner and water commissioner during the same election.
Elections will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Hicksville Fire Department Headquarters, 20 East Marie Street, and Station #4, located on Levittown Parkway.
This year, the race for fire commissioner is a contested one with incumbent Harry Single seeking re-election to a second, five-year term. Challenging Single is Robert Lang, current chief of the Hicksville Fire Department.
Both candidates were asked the same questions and their responses were used to compile the profiles that appear alphabetically below:
Robert Lang, a lifelong resident, first joined Hicksville Fire Department’s Company #6 in 1974. After eight years, he left to pursue a professional career as a member of the New York City Fire Department but, in 1992, upon his retirement from the NYFD, Lang rejoined Hicksville as a member of Company #1 where he served as 2nd lieutenant, 1st lieutenant and captain. In 2002, Lang was elected 3rd assistant chief and, over the course of the past eight years, moved up the ranks; he is currently completing his tenure as chief of department.
Lang is a member of the following organizations: Retired Members Association of the Fire Department of the City of New York, IAFF, UFA; 9th Battalion Active Chiefs Association; 9th Battalion Fire Districts Association; Nassau County Drill Teams Captains Association; New York State Drill Team Captains Association; Nassau County Fireman’s Association; South Shore Fireman’s Association; Southern New York Fireman’s Association; Fireman’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY); Fire Chiefs Council of Nassau County; New York State Association of Fire Chiefs; and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. On a local front, he is involved with Hicksville Baseball Association, the Red Devils, the Hicksville American Soccer Club and is a parishioner of St. Ignatius Loyola.
Lang told this newspaper that his professional experience with the NYFD and his years of service as a volunteer with Hicksville, make him the candidate of choice. “I retired from the fire department after 21 years. I finished my career after serving in Squad 270 where I had enhanced training in rescue services and weapons of mass destruction and terrorist training. I worked in the private contracting business and am aware of what the cost and requirements and budget demands are for operating and maintaining a business in today’s unsettled economic times,” Lang said, adding that, if elected fire commissioner, he will “continue his heroic award-winning service to the community and remain an active member of the Hicksville Fire Department.”
According to Lang, the decision to run for fire commissioner came at the request of department membership. “They have placed their trust in me knowing that I understand the needs of both the volunteers and the community,” Lang told the Hicksville Illustrated News, adding that as fire commissioner, the “interests and the concerns” are not limited to the members of the fire department. “I realize that there is a scope of responsibility to the people, the constituents of the district to maintain at the very least, the current level of service and to work to enhance and improve upon the excellent service the people now have,” he said.
As chief of the Hicksville Fire Department, Lang has worked closely with the commissioners and district officers and experiences, “firsthand areas that are in need of improvement.” If elected commissioner, Lang said he will work to “bring about a new and improved transparent relationship” between the district and department members.
According to Lang, being able to maintain service within budget, along with consolidation and providing ambulance/ emergency medical services (EMS), are among some of the issues facing the Hicksville Fire District today. “One of the most pressing issues facing the community today is the decline of emergency ambulance service within Nassau County and the increasing demand on the fire department,” Lang said, adding that he is unhappy with the decline in services provided by the county and that, if elected commissioner, he would work to implement the enhanced ambulance/EMS program he and his fellow chiefs worked to create.
Lang said that the consolidation of special districts is a “very broad” issue that “covers many levels of government services.” He added that, currently, “the taxpayers of Hicksville have the best fire protection and medical services available at the most efficient cost.”
When asked why residents should vote for him, Lang told the Hicksville Illustrated News that his “experience, knowledge, leadership qualities and commitment” make him the best-qualified candidate. “I am the man for the department, the district and, most importantly, the residents of the community,” he said.
Harry Single, a resident for 33 years, is seeking re-election to his second five-year term as commissioner. Single, a former New York City police officer and a retired U.S. Justice Department federal agent, was a member of Hicksville’s Flood Light/Heavy Rescue Company #8 from 1980-1989. He currently owns the Hicksville-based Uncle Harry’s Trophies and Plaques.
Single was involved with the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce, Knights of Columbus Joseph Barry Council and Midland Civic Association. In addition, he was a volunteer emergency medical technician. Currently, Single sits on the board of directors of the Hicksville Boys & Girls Club, Hicksville Baseball Association and Hicksville Football Association as well as the Hicksville Public Library Board of Trustees. He is also member of the advisory board for Briarcliffe College’s Criminal Justice Program.
Single said his professional experience coupled with his community involvement make him the candidate of choice. “I have been active in many organizations and, in almost all of them, have taken a leadership role. I also have the experience with large budgets and I know firsthand what the people feel because I am out among them,” he said, adding, “I come from a strict law enforcement background so I believe in going by the rules and governing fairly. I would never do anything to disgrace the office I hold or the district and department I represent.”
According to Single, finding ways to supply the finest equipment and up-to-date training while keeping the costs down is among the challenges facing Hicksville. “The fire district budget has been reduced by at least 7 percent since 2004 and in 2008 and 2009 we were able to hold the line with no increases, even though it was a tough economic climate,” he said, adding that for 2010, the district has reduced the budget by 1.59 percent. “In today’s economy, this is a full-time job and I have done it for the past five years.”
Single said he is “firmly against” the consolidation of special districts and believes the consolidation plan, in its current form, was “ill conceived and rushed” by New York State government. He said the consolidation of fire districts would result in loss of local representation. “Someone who is not one of your neighbors will be making decisions regarding your fire and rescue protection. They will not have a personal stake in their decisions, they don’t know you or care about you,” he said.
Additionally, Single believes that the cost of consolidation would be huge. “I certainly hope people don’t think if New York State saves you your fire tax that all of sudden [the service] will be free,” he said, adding, “It would probably dwarf what we pay for the police. Look at your tax bill and see what you pay for police and just imagine that and more added on.”
Single also believes that consolidation will have a negative effect on response time. “If volunteers had to travel further distances to get to the scene of a fire or rescue, there would be more property damage and loss of life because of those delays. Do we really want to slow response times down? I don’t,” he said. “Also we would have a problem getting volunteers because they would say that they want to volunteer in their community, but don’t want to have to bounce around two or three other areas.”
If re-elected, Single said he would like to see the fire district continue to upgrade its equipment, offer firefighters additional training and follow through with a program the board of fire commissioners approved that enlists EMS personnel to respond to rescue calls only. “This would help us increase the protection of our residents when they need EMS support,” he said.
When asked why residents should vote for him, Single told the Hicksville Illustrated News, “The people of Hicksville know me, they know what I am about and they know that when I take on a job, I do it for the love of my community. I am very visible and I do not just ‘come out of the woodwork’ at election time. Everyone knows how accessible I am and I would not want it any other way.”