Steinmuller, Beresky face off in commissioner’s race

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Andy Steinmuller, completing his 18th year on the Board of Fire Commissioners, is running for reelection.

Incumbent Andy Steinmuller will face off against John Beresky next Tuesday in a race for a five-year term as a Shelter Island fire commissioner.

Mr. Steinmuller is the current chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, completing his 18th year as a commissioner, while Mr. Beresky is a two-year veteran of the department, making his second run for a seat.

Last December, he launched a write-in campaign, but this year, he announced an early intent to run and his name will be on the ballot.

He promised after last year’s loss that it wouldn’t be “one and done.”

Mr. Steinmuller has 59 years of experience as a firefighter, the first 20 of which were with the Bethpage Fire Department before he and his family moved to Shelter Island 40 years ago.

The incumbent said he wants to keep a team that has worked well together, noting that this year, the Board of Fire Commissioners has kept taxes low and has structured a budget for 2014 that achieves a slight cut in taxes.

Under his leadership, the fire district has upgraded its insurance rating that could result in lower insurance rates for Island property owners. Mr. Steinmuller was instrumental in the successful effort to merge the Heights and Center fire departments into a single unit back in 1997.

JOANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | John Beresky is making his second bid for a seat on the Board of Fire Commissioners.

Mr. Beresky is a New York City firefighter who joined that department in January 2002 after serving as a New York City police officer for more than three years. He launched his candidacy last year, he said, to ensure local volunteer firefighters were embracing necessary safety procedures and had the equipment, support and technology to do their work effectively.

That’s still his campaign theme, he said, explaining that the nature of fires today is different, since materials made from petroleum-based products burn hotter. Bunker gear worn by firefighters can render protection in blazes burning at 200 to 300 degrees, but not in today’s fires that often burn at 2000 to 3000 degrees, he said.

“My focus is on people who live here and the guys who do the job,” he said.

In his run last year, Mr. Beresky faced incumbents Richard Surozenski and Andy Reeve. Mr. Reeve received 95 votes and Mr. Surozenski 70, to Mr. Beresky’s 35 write-in votes. But he and others charged that 35 votes that were discounted belonged to him. Some who wrote his name on the paper ballot failed to place it in the proper position, resulting in poll watchers discounting those votes, he said.

This year, a machine will be used to register votes as is the practice whenever there is a contested election, according to long-time Commissioner Larry Lechmanski. There is a line for voters to write-in a candidate using the machine vote if anyone chooses to do so.

But while there were rumblings prior to last year’s vote about a possible write-in campaign, all has been silent this year.

All Shelter Island registered voters are eligible to cast ballots in the election at the Center Firehouse on Tuesday between 6 and 9 p.m.