Fire commissioner runs for Assembly
Joe DeStefano is inevitably involved in the Medford community through his longstanding service in the fire department. DeStefano, 58, has served in the Medford Fire District since age 19, when the department was located across the street from where it is now on Oregon Avenue. He has been the commissioner of the fire district since 1996, and has now been nominated to take Dean Murray’s seat as 3rd District assemblyman on the Republican ticket. DeStefano, who officially began his campaign May 31, prides himself on his considerable network in Medford and the surrounding area, in addition to his negotiating skills — the ability to work with people.
“You don’t keep the longevity of being a fire commissioner for 23 years unless you’re able to work with all sides,” DeStefano said. “Your ideas are not always the best ideas. You make tough decisions sometimes. But for the most part, you get along with people.”
He credited his service in the NYS Association of Fire Districts as secretary/treasurer for his negotiating skills. “It’s about making deals happen for the people we represent,” said DeStefano. “I have the ability to work out problems.”
At the Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association meeting June 27, which was held at the firehouse on Oregon Avenue, DeStefano made a verbal commitment to exceed Murray’s level of attendance at the civic meetings in the event that he is elected to the state Assembly.
“My commitment has always been to this community. You will find good things happening to this community from someone who has lived here almost all his life,” DeStefano said.
He referenced his frustration with the ongoing maintenance and construction on Route 112, calling it a “minefield.” The association’s treasurer, Nerina Sperl, said that as an assemblyman, DeStefano would acquire the means to make the maintenance less of a headache for the community and motorists.
“Your staff can get on the phone with Department of Transportation and all these other [companies] that leave all their construction equipment right on the road,” Sperl said, adding that these types of tasks can be done despite the fact that DeStefano would be representing the minority in Albany. “The streets are filthy,” she added. “The sidewalks we do have, they don’t do anything for them. All you have to do is make a phone call to the right person.”
Regarding legislative agenda, DeStefano said that nothing meaningful has gotten done in the last three months in Albany. He said he doesn’t believe it is Murray’s fault but that it is a macroscopic problem at the state level.
“It’s disgraceful what is going on up there,” DeStefano said. “We’re suffering for their dysfunction. It’s the things that have hard decisions that have to be made are the ones that [the state legislators] put off that they don’t come to a resolution on. Let’s get to the crux of what’s really going on. Let’s look at the long-term issues and let’s try to fix those.”
DeStefano said that in the fire district there have been considerable vouching and requests the last four years for upholstery fire regulations. “Every year, it has to be reintroduced [to the legislative agenda].”
He referenced the fire service’s successful push for increased cancer coverage, though it did take multiple reintroductions to the agenda before anything was passed. “We got a scaled-down version of what was really needed,” he said.
Though the state Senate passed the extension of sales taxes, DeStefano called this an “easy issue” to remedy. “Communities need that revenue, so they are going to need to do that,” DeStefano said.
The state Assembly 3rd District seat’s jurisdiction spans from Coram, North Patchogue, out east to Mastic Beach, Middle Island, Yaphank and part of Gordon Heights.
His first campaign fundraiser is scheduled for July 24 at Porters on the Lane in Bellport and will be hosted by Jesse Garcia, Brookhaven Town Republican Committee chairman.
DeStefano’s Democratic opponent, Clyde Parker of Bellport, is on the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Club of the Bellport Area and is also on the board of directors of Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue.
Editor’s note: An article will appear in the July 12 edition of the Long Island Advance about Parker’s background and qualifications for the seat.
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