With 35 years of experience in the New York City Fire Department under his belt, Ernest Gentile is looking to become a New Hyde Park Fire District commissioner.
Gentile is running against incumbent John Waldron, who is finishing up his first five-year term.
In Tuesday’s election the men are running to be one of the district’s five commissioners.
“The reason I ran five years ago was the lack of training and accountability and that has gotten much better,” Waldron said.
During his term, Waldron built an in-house training facility where the firefighters can get requalified, he said. The district has also purchased new radios with Mayday buttons, he said.
As commissioner Waldron also established the fire district’s Sept. 11 memorial.
Gentile said his “expertise and experience with firefighting is paramount to the fire district’s mission.”
In addition to his work in the city, Gentile said he was a former captain in Fire Rescue in the New Hyde Park Fire Department.
He has also served on the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Board of Education for 10 years, and was president for six, he said.
Gentile said during his time on the school board he never had any “dramatic difficulties” and the board has worked together well, seeing smooth successions through two superintendents and hiring four new principals.
He also said he is familiar with working with a large budget. The school district budget, at $38 million according to Gentile, is significantly more than the fire district’s budget he would manage as commissioner, he said.
The fire district, which serves the Village of New Hyde Park and unincorporated areas in North New Hyde Park, has a 2018 budget of almost $4.3 million, according to the Town of North Hempstead 2018 budget.
If elected commissioner, Gentile said he has no plan to leave his position on the school board.
Waldron, a member of the department since 1998, won his contested three-way race for commissioner in 2012. Waldron defeated the incumbent at the time, John Brown, and another challenger, John Niewender.
Waldron ran for his first term at 34 years old. He was seeking to appeal to younger volunteers, he said in a previous Blank Slate Media interview.
He said he is running for re-election to see through on-going projects from his term, such as a new ambulance, new ladder truck and new software being installed.
Gentile said the election isn’t about the person, but about getting the best person for the position. He added that he and Waldron are friends.
Waldron said that he’s looking forward to Tuesday, and regardless of the outcome “taxpayers are going to get a good candidate.”
The fire district has another commissioner position on the ballot.
In January, James Romagnoli was appointed to take the spot of James Nagy after Nagy’s death.
Romagnoli is running unopposed on Tuesday to finish up the last year of the term.
Romagnoli said he is running because he gave his word that he would finish out the two-year term, and because he’s enjoying the work he’s doing as commissioner.
“We’re in the middle of some very exciting projects in the district … I would like to see a lot of them through,” Romagnoli said. “I’m in a good place, having a good time.”