West Hempstead Fire Commissioner Sue Scognamiglio is facing a challenge from EMT Avi Rosman as she seeks a fourth term in this year's election, which will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
Patch recently sat down with Scognamiglio, now in her 15th year as commissioner, to learn more about her experience, her contributions to the West Hempstead Fire District and why she wants to retain her seat.
Here's what she had to say.
Patch: How long have you been serving the West Hempstead Fire District?
Scognamiglio: I’ve been involved with the fire service since I moved here in 1971. I was the wife of a volunteer firefighter (the late Gabriele Scognamiglio) and got involved with the Ladies Auxiliary here, then Nassau County and New York, serving as president of the Ladies Auxiliary of Fireman's Association of the State of New York from 2000-2001. I am still an active member of many of them.
You name it, we've done it. If there's a house fire and the chief calls us, the Ladies Auxiliary is there to bring refreshments to them. We support them when they have fundraisers, installations, meetings, whenever they ask us to assist them. We are their main moral support. Each one of us is behind them 100 percent in the job they want to do and love to do.
Patch: The commissioner job is also a non-paid position. What drives you to want to continue to serve as a commissioner?
Scognamiglio: You don’t have to be a firefighter to love the fire service. You have to have an unequivocal desire to help your fellow human being to the best of your ability. This is my way of helping my community. I put my heart and soul into it.
I’ve met extremely nice friends over the years and learned a lot from them. I’ve been very fortunate. Once you are in the fire service, they become your family for life.
Patch: What are your main concerns regarding the fire service? What issues are you most passionate about?
Scognamiglio: My overall issue is the safety of everyone who is working out there and the community itself, and that we all live up to the higher standards expected of us. The department is one whole department – firefighters and EMS –and it’s a united group of people, both men and women.
Patch: What skills do you think you bring to the table?
Scognamiglio: I bring a happy balance. The service I've done for the fire service at various levels [is an asset]. You need to know what the fire service entails. For instance, you should know what courses are available and what levels the volunteers should try to achieve. I've always asked questions. If I don't understand something, I make sure I get the answers.
I was assistant to the director of the Cathedral Nursing School [in Garden City] for 17 years. My duties included scheduling classes and teachers, bookkeeping, sending out bills and working on the budget together. I also have people skills. I worked for Brena and South America airlines as a ticket agent on the international level.
I've held many jobs and now I'm retired, but that gives me more time to spend with my grandchildren and devote myself to the fire district.
Patch: How effective do you think you have been as a commissioner?
Scognamiglio: I'm one of five. We submit a budget on an annual basis that … covers equipment, the building, insurance, training and fixed expenses. You always have to account for that going up, but we have been effective at keeping the budget within reason. That's been our goal every year.
We’ve been very proactive. We have equipment that’s been there for a long time, but it’s well-maintained, and when necessary, we look to replace it.
We make sure everyone is trained in a timely manner, maintains their training, and have annual physicals. We work with the chief.
We added an elevator at the firehouse [making it handicapped accessible] after members requested it. People needed to use the meeting room upstairs and the only way to get up there was the staircase.
Patch: Where do you see room for improvement within the West Hempstead Fire District?
Scognamiglio: I don’t think anything is perfect. There is always room for improvement. There’s always a new course, new and improved equipment, or something else that will make it easier for members to fulfill their duties. There are new laws to protect them and you need to bring them forward to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.
To read Patch's interview with Avi Rosman, click here.
West Hempstead Fire Commissioners serve a five-year term. Residents can vote in the fire commissioner elections at the West Hempstead Fire House (295 Hempstead Tpke.) on Dec. 11 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m