Two ex-fire chiefs and life-long West Hempstead residents will face off next week for the position of fire commissioner.
On Dec. 13, residents in the West Hempstead fire district will decide whether incumbent Ronald Magarie will serve on the board of commissioners for a third term or if his challenger, Bill D’Alessandro, will take the seat. (Polls will be open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the West Hempstead fire house for all registered voters living within the district.)
Magarie, 54, and D’Alessandro, 52, have much in common. Both are natives of West Hempstead who graduated from West Hempstead High School, 1975 and 1977, respectively. They each have more than 30 years of service with the West Hempstead fire department and have held the position of chief. And while both are married, neither one has children, pointing out that this gives them plenty of time to dedicate to serving their communities.
To learn more about what sets them apart though, their experience and their views on how to run the West Hempstead fire district, Patch recently spoke one-on-one with each candidate. Here's what we learned.
Incumbent: Ronald Magarie
Occupation: Electrical contractor and manager at Corkrey Electric in Hempstead.
Experience: Thirty-seven years with the West Hempstead Fire Department, an ex-chief and in his second five-year term as one of the district's fire commissioners. Also, a Nassau County Fire Commissioner.
Ronald Magarie was first elected to the board of fire commissioners for the West Hempstead district in 2001, after choosing to run because he felt things were “going in the wrong direction.”
For the past decade he has served on the board, making decisions regarding the purchasing of new fire equipment and the annual budget, and modernizing the facilities.
“There were plans to purchase a new tower ladder truck, a very large piece of equipment that many felt we didn’t need,” said Magarie, who instead opted to buy a straight ladder truck, which he explained was more suitable for fighting fires in residential areas. "We investigated the best possible company to purchase this truck from,” he said, adding that it resulted in a nearly $100,000 savings.
Magarie also was involved in purchasing a second ambulance for the department, which he said was especially important for West Hempstead’s elderly population. “It’s not the Cadillac of ambulances, but we purchased an adequate one from a reputable company for what we think was the best price,” he said.
He also replaced two aging fire pumpers during the past six years that were over 20 years old. He originally rejected a proposal to purchase the second one two years ago because the bids came in too high.
"Additionally, I had expressed to other Board members that the truck it was replacing still was usable to fight fires with," Magarie says. They went out to bid again less than a year ago and got a better price. By holding off, he says, the district was able to save $70,000 and get a more modernized piece of equipment.
“I have the experience,” Magarie said, explaining that many of the duties he performs as manager of an electric company are similar to those of a commissioner including “purchasing the right equipment and shopping for best prices.”
His 37-years of experience as an electrical contractor also enabled him to take the lead role in modernizing the firehouse and making it ADA compliant by installing an elevator.
And as for the budget, Magarie says he has kept a close eye on taxpayers’ money.
“Our budget last year, we lowered by several thousand dollars and this year we raised it 1.9 percent, or $21,000," he said, explaining that the increase was due to the purchase of Firefighter Safety "Bail-Out Rope" Systems, which are required. He also needed to budget for the future purchase of new digital radio equipment, which is mandated by the federal government and Nassau County.
“I’m uniquely qualified,” Magarie said, adding that he also serves as a Nassau County fire commissioner for the 7th battalion and is co-chairman of emergency operations. “I bring a lot of information back to West Hempstead and instill it if what we can.”
Challenger: Bill D’Alessandro
Occupation: Retired; Managed an auto body shop for 25 years and worked for Nassau County Department of Public Works.
Experience: Thirty-four years with the West Hempstead Fire Department, an ex-chief and advanced medical technician. Also, a life member of the 7th Battalion Chiefs Council and the Firefighters Benevolent Association, and belongs to various other state and local fire associations.
"My family has over 200 years of service in the fire department," Bill D'Alessandro says. The decorated volunteer firefighter and advanced medical technician has received numerous awards for saving other people's lives, which he chalks up to effective training, something that he thinks is lacking right now in the West Hempstead fire district.
"I was brought up in a time of the more you learn the better you are…I had two older brothers [also ex-chiefs] who drummed that into me," D'Alessandro says, but adds that West Hempstead's training "isn’t the best that it should be."
This is one of the reasons why D'Alessandro is challenging Ron Magarie for a seat on the district's fire commissioners board.
"We need a change," he says. According to D'Alessandro, morale could be improved. "There's a lot of great, young guys but no direction for them."
Taxes are another issue for the West Hempstead native, who says he would curtail spending if elected by only purchasing items that are truly needed and shopping around for the best prices.
Right now, he says too many requests are fulfulled because people say, "This person is my friend and I don't want to make them mad.... but that's not my job. It's spending taxpayers' dollars the best that I can."
Where D'Alessandro would like to spend money would be to hire an EMT to cover the day shift, when most volunteers are at work and not able to respond. He said this idea had been presented to the board in the past, but they rejected it. Yet, he added, "they have two paid secretaries and a paid full-time houseman."
Most importantly, D'Alessandro says he's fit for the job of fire commissioner because he both understands and cares for the department.
"My father had almost 50 years in before he died, my mother a little over 60 when she passed away....and my wife was the first female to join the department," he says. "I have a love for the department."
The Lakeview Fire District will also be voting for a new commissioner on Dec. 13. Find out more about the candidate this Friday and stay with Patch for the results of both elections next week.