Write-in candidate challenges residents to get involved in fire district

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | A contested election for fire commissioners looms as a result of a strong write-in bid by John Beresky.

The Shelter Island firefighter who is contesting last week’s commissioner elections challenged residents to attend meetings and learn about the issues confronting the department.

John Beresky, a 39-year-old New York City firefighter who joined the Shelter Island Fire Department last year, said in a letter to the editor to be published in Thursday’s paper that he thinks  that 123 people voted in the December 11 election instead of the usual 30 is positive and more people should run for commissioner seats and get involved with the fire district.

“I wish more people ran and more residents voted,” Mr. Beresky wrote.

In his letter he again raised the issue that concerned him and others in the department that about 35 voided ballots were discounted because he said people were confused by the ballots.

“Many ballots were voided because they had been filled out incorrectly,” Mr. Beresky wrote.  Ballots should not be so confusing to voters, he said.

“For the voters who came out in high numbers this time, I have to question the validity of the vote,” he wrote.

He reiterated that his late run for a commissioner’s post wasn’t “a personal attack on anyone” and said he likes both Richard Surozenski and Andy Reeve, the two incumbents who won 70 and 95 votes respectively, to Mr. Beresky’s  29 write-in votes. But if all 35 voided ballots were for Mr. Beresky, he would have tallied 64 votes — still not enough to topple the incumbents.

Mr. Beresky said the reason he’s challenging the outcome isn’t because he expects to win. He wants to assure that voting is easy and clear in future elections, he said.

“Once again, this isn’t personal towards anyone; I’m questioning the system in place,” he wrote.

Some department members said there’s a conflict of interest, since elections are overseen by employees hired by the sitting commissioners. Those employees are making decisions such as which ballots are counted and which voided, the members said..

Mr. Beresky failed to get his name on the ballot that would have avoided a write-in campaign because he was unaware of the November 21cutoff date.

Talking to the Reporter last week, Mr. Beresky said he ran because he has concerns about safety.

“The guys on the Island are really good and I want everyone to be really safe,” he said.

The fire commissioners meet at the Center Firehouse tonight at 7:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.

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