Two Vie For Commish

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Residents will have the opportunity to vote for special district commissioners on Dec. 5 at the Polish American Hall, located at 5 Pulaski Place, between 12 p.m. and 9 p.m. Residents will be able to vote for reelection of uncontested Water District Commissioner Peter Meyer, Garbage District Commissioner Paul Oleksiw and Sewer District Commissioner John Olszewsk. For Police District Commissioner, residents can vote for either current Police District Commissioner James B. Duncan or newcomer Thomas R. Rice.

James B. Duncan

James B. Duncan

Port born and bred, having attended Main Street School, Weber Middle School and Schreiber High School, James B. Duncan has been the Port Washington Police District Commissioner for the past 21 years. Duncan was previously a Nassau County Police Officer for 23 years, a firefighter with Port Washington Fire Department for 50 years and a captain in the U.S. Army. Duncan is currently the owner and president of Chief Fire and Safety Equipment Distributors, Inc., a distributor of fire safety equipment and supplies within the Northeast region.

“First couple of years I was commissioner, I was inundated with lawsuits from old regimes and I was assigned by the board to get the lawsuits taken care of,” said Duncan, who first started as commissioner in 1997. “I got it taken care of in a highly fiscal manner. Over the years, I brought the district up to the 21st century.”

Over the years as commissioner, Duncan explained that he was integral in diversifying Port’s police force and hired more crossing guards to help protect children as they cross the street. The crossing guards were trained by traffic control and previous crossing guards.

“All officers are highly trained in active shooter in case, God forbid, we ever had an active shooter,” said Duncan. “I bought the best ballistic helmets, in case they need to get into the schools. The schools need to be protected.”

Duncan said that he got rid of the “the longevity mentality” in the police force and requires that officers “make sure people in town are helped” and said he played a role in getting the average police response time down to less than two minutes.
When asked if he would help expand the police department to cover more areas such as Manorhaven, Duncan said, “If we have additional means we would take in Manorhaven, but there are a few things that need to be worked out.”

Duncan recently secured a generator for the department building. The generator will help power the cell tower, so if a hurricane causes a power outage, the generator will help the tower run, so officers can receive calls and those with Verizon phones will have service. While he secured the generator, Duncan says he has quite a few projects left on his plate including upgrades to the cell tower, finalize new communication systems and continue to get more diversified.

“I haven’t finished some of the projects and I’m loyal to this town,” said Duncan of why he decided to run for re-election. “I’ve dedicated years to this community. I have hundreds of hours of skills that you gain over the years. I’m dedicated to the community and I think my record stands, my projects, the response times. I have people call me if something isn’t right and I always strive to help them.”

Thomas R. Rice

Thomas R. Rice

Port born and raised, Rice was a store supervisor at Alper’s Hardware for almost 30 years, a volunteer councilmember of the Lutheran Church of Port Washington, a youth leader of the Lutheran youth group and a member of the Port Washington Volunteer Fire Department. He is a retired 17-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, having served on several units including the street narcotics unit, the burglary unit and as an instructor at the NYC Police Academy in the field of weapons retention and self-defense.

“I was raised in Port Washington—one of eight,” said Rice, explaining why he decided to run. “I have always been active in the community and care deeply for Port Washington and its residents. I would be proud and honored to serve the community as the Port Washington Police Commissioner.”

As a volunteer councilmember of the Lutheran Church of Port Washington, Rice served as the project manager of the $2 million renovation and improvement of the church building and facilities. Rice currently serves as a consultant to the supervisor of the Town of North Hempstead. In that role, Rice is an advisor to the waterfront. One of his accomplishments includes working with the Chief Bay Constable and FEMA to secure $13 million in grant money towards the renovation of the town dock. He also worked with the commissioner of Public Safety to improve the policy creating a safer waterfront environment.

“I have the experience and the desire needed to develop a fiscally sound and more transparent department,” said Rice. “I believe the bidding process in the department needs immediate changes. I know I can bring a level of professionalism to the Board of Commissioners.”

Rice wants to ensure that the bidding and procurement is transparent, that the department will strictly adhere to its budget and that large scale projects such as the proposed renovation of the department headquarters will be implemented with residents and taxpayers in mind. If elected, he will propose that all PWPD board votes be public, including decisions made during executive sessions.

“I look forward to working with the young people of Port Washington and developing a Port Washington Police Youth Council,” said Rice. “The police would work closely with the junior and senior high schools to form a relationship for open communication. Topics we would discuss would not be limited to drugs, alcohol and bullying.”

When asked if he would expand the police department to cover more areas such as Manorhaven, Rice explained that he has spoken to Mayor Jim Avena about expanding. Rice said he would be willing to consider an intermunicipal agreement for 15 years with a re-up after 10 years, stating it would protect both the new officers that would need to be hired as well as the district.

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Christina Claus is a reporter for Anton Media Group and a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly and Anton’s magazines.

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