Fire commissioners’ races on Tuesday

It’s Mitch Froehlich versus Ronna Rubenstein in Woodmere


Seven special districts in the Five Towns will hold commissioner elections on Dec. 10. Voting will take place from 6 to 9 p.m., except in the Hewlett Bay district, where the hours will be 5 to 9 p.m.

Six of the districts are fire districts, autonomous, tax-collecting jurisdictions independent from the municipalities where they are located, established to provide fire protection and to respond to other emergencies. Governed by an elected board of commissioners, these districts have the authority to levy taxes and incur debt without approval from any other government. Fire district boundaries sometimes cross town and county lines.

Woodmere Fire District

Ronna Rubenstein, the district’s secretary for the past four years, is challenging Commissioner Mitch Froehlich for a five-year term. “I have managed the Woodmere Fire District from behind the scenes, preparing and managing budgets and procuring hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants,” Rubenstein said. “As a mother, wife and successful businesswoman, I understand the importance of working collaboratively for a safer community and putting our neighborhood’s needs first.”

Rubenstein, 48, has also been a member of the department’s emergency medical services unit for four years. “Inspired by the members who volunteer in the Woodmere Fire Department to keep our community safe, I put myself through EMT school and became an active member of the department’s EMS division,” she said. “I make it my business to be in the neighborhood whenever feasible to be able to respond to calls and help neighbors in need.”

Froehlich, 50, has been a commissioner since 2006 and a volunteer firefighter for 17 years. He highlighted the work done by the commissioners in 2019. “Just this past year, we purchased three new fire trucks, three new state-of-the-art thermal imaging cameras, two life-saving thumpers” — automated CPR machines — “and a new ambulance,” Froehlich said. “We’ve done all this while keeping expenses down and taxes from increasing.”

He added that the district has more work to do. “The board of fire commissioners works well together,” he said. “We’ve accomplished a tremendous amount together as a team over the years. The work is never done. The only way to accomplish more is by being re-elected.”

Voting will take place at the Woodmere firehouse, at 20 Irving Place.

Uncontested elections

Inwood Fire District

Two incumbent commissioners, Vincent Castanga and Joseph Reda are running for re-election. Castanga, 52, has been with the department for 33 years, served as a captain from 2009 to 2015 and was elected commissioner in 2018, after he defeated Matthew Rizzo to serve the final year of former Commissioner Thomas Pandolfo’s unexpired term. Castanga is now running for a full-five year term.

“We have a good balance of people with different skill sets on the board right now,” he said. “I hope to be re-elected and see this positive trend continue.”

Reda, a commissioner for roughly a year, is running for what would be his first five-year term. He is also a former captain. “I’ve always been very interested in volunteering,” Reda said. “That’s what led me to run for this position.”

Voting is at the Inwood firehouse, at 188 Doughty Blvd.

Atlantic Beach Fire District

In Atlantic Beach, incumbent Commissioner Nat Etrog is running unopposed for a second five-year term. Etrog, 74, is a 20-year member of the Atlantic Beach Rescue Squad, and has served as a captain of the water rescue squad. He was first elected commissioner in 2014, when he defeated incumbent Julian Goldstein.

Etrog said he was initially inspired to run in order to stay involved with the rescue team. “I wanted to continue to serve and be in a leadership role,” he said. “I’m proud of the services we provide, and I hope to continue to not raise taxes for our residents and not go over our budget.”

Greater Atlantic Beach Water Reclamation District

Incumbent Arnie Geller is running unchallenged for another three-year term as a commissioner in this district, which oversees the daily operation of the Greater Atlantic Beach Water Reclamation District in Atlantic Beach.

Voting for both the fire and water reclamation districts will take place at rescue squad headquarters, at One Rescue Road.

Hewlett Bay Fire District

Incumbent Commissioner Daniel Weisner is running unopposed for his fourth five-year term. Weisner has been with the fire department since 1978, and has been a commissioner since 2004.

Voting will be at the firehouse, at 25 Franklin Ave.

Meadowmere Park Fire District

Incumbent Commissioner Steve McFadden is running unopposed for another five-year term. Voting is at the firehouse, at 14 Meyer Ave.

Lawrence North Fire District

In the district that covers the area outside the Village of Lawrence, incumbent commissioner Thomas Vairo is running unopposed. Voting will take place at the Five Towns Community Center, at 270 Lawrence Ave.

Updates reflect the North Lawrence Fire District responding to the press inquiry on Dec. 4.