Fire Commissioner Elections Tuesday

In Amagansett, J. Kent Howie, right, who has served for the past 10 years in the position, and Dwayne Denton, left, a past chief, are vying for the position photos by Christine Sampson and Durell Godfrey

Annual elections for fire commissioners, who serve five-year terms and oversee fire and ambulance services, will be held on Tuesday, with two contested races in Montauk and Amagansett and a referendum in Bridgehampton. 

In Amagansett, J. Kent Howie, who has served for the past 10 years in the position, and Dwayne Denton, a past chief, are vying for the position. Mr. Howie, who is seeking a third term, said Tuesday that he and his fellow commissioners had accomplished a lot together. “I think we’ve got a good board,” he said. In recent years the district has made energy upgrades, creating a solar and wind program; purchased the property next door, and instituted a paid paramedic program. The department has passed the million-dollar mark in income from a cellphone tower put up about 10 years ago, he said. One more term, said Mr. Howie, would allow him to finish other projects, including “much-needed maintenance” at the firehouse, as well as continue to monitor the paramedic program.

In his professional life, Mr. Howie has been a code enforcement officer for the Village of East Hampton for the last three years. He remains an active member of the fire department, and will hit the 25-year mark in January. He also serves as a fire coordinator with Suffolk County, and is president of the East Hampton Town Fire District Officers Association. 

Mr. Denton, his opponent, is running for commissioner for the first time. “I’ve lived here all my life and I just want to continue in the fire service . . . and do more for my community,” he said Monday. 

A carpenter for most of his life, Mr. Denton has been working as a fire marshal for the Town of East Hampton for the last two years. He too is a code enforcement officer and a peace officer as well, able to make civilian arrests. “I think I can be helpful with the district with maintaining the building,” he said. 

Mr. Denton, a 28-year member of the Amagansett Fire Department, finished his term as chief in April 2015 and decided to wait about a year to run for commissioner. He said his decision to run had nothing to do with Mr. Howie’s performance as commissioner. “He served the district in a great capacity for a number of years. I think he did a fine job, I just want to run for commissioner,” Mr. Denton said. 

“We’ve been friends a long time, and I’m sure we’ll be friends on the other side of this,” Mr. Howie later said.

Voting will take place at the firehouse on Main Street between 6 and 9 p.m.

In the Montauk Fire District, Joseph Dryer, the current chairman of the board of fire commissioners, is seeking a third term on the board, while Peter Joyce, a 43-year member of the department and an ex-chief, is running a write-in campaign to take the seat.

Mr. Dryer, a 10-year member of the Montauk Fire Department, was a 25-year member of the Westchester Fire Department before that. He is a retired math teacher and has served as an officer in the United States Merchant Marine.

He said he would like to continue his record of making significant advancements within the fire district, among them contributing to creating the district’s paid paramedic program, its adverse-weather program, the construction of a maintenance and storage facility, and its vehicle-replacement program.

“My future goals would be to continue to provide the equipment and personnel required to protect the lives and property of the people of Montauk, and provide a safe working and training environment for the members of the Montauk Fire Department,” Mr. Dryer said on Tuesday.

Mr. Joyce, who has lived in Montauk for 65 years, is the owner of his own business, Peter Joyce Seaside Landscaping and Pools. He spent two years as the department chief and was also a first assistant and second assistant chief, totaling about 10 years in the leadership of the department. In 2015, he was named its firefighter of the year. 

He is the coordinator of the department’s community hurricane preparedness program. He said he would like to see the fire district make improvements to the facilities, focus on replacing aging equipment, examine staffing practices, and boost resources for firefighters who often have to travel long distances for training.

“I would like to use all my 43 years of experience in the fire department and my experience running a large crew of people in my own business,” Mr. Joyce said Tuesday. “I’m 100 percent fire department. I will drop whatever I’m doing to help people, and I will fight for the taxpayers and the community to make the fire department the best it can possibly be.”

Montauk residents can cast their vote on Tuesday between 2 and 9 p.m. at the firehouse on Flamingo Avenue.

In the Bridgehampton Fire District, Robert Comfort, who was appointed a fire commissioner in July to replace Ray Topping, who had resigned in May, is running unopposed for the five-year term. Mr. Comfort is a 32-year member of the Bridgehampton Fire Department who serves in the Light and Hose Company. He has held several department leadership roles over the years, including chief.

The district has also put forth a proposition for voter approval concerning an increase in spending on its length-of-service award program, a pension program for members that is often seen as an incentive in the department’s efforts to recruit and retain volunteers. The board of commissioners declined to provide The Star with details of the proposition. Voters, who include residents of Wainscott, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton, and some in Water Mill, can cast ballots at the School Street firehouse on Tuesday between 6 and 9 p.m.

In Springs, Chris Harmon — whose name will appear on the ballot as William C. Harmon — is running unopposed for his second term on the Springs Board of Fire Commissioners. A member of the Springs Fire Department, Mr. Harmon moved to Springs in 1981 and joined the department nine years ago. However, his firefighting experience reaches well beyond that: He was a firefighter with the White Plains Fire Department for 20 years. 

Springs voters will go to the polls Tuesday at the firehouse on Fort Pond Boulevard from 6 to 9 p.m.