Teenager to run for city fire board

Tara Williamson, 18, is running for one of two seats on the Board of Fire Commissioners along with her father, Kenneth Williamson Sr.

By: Linda Seida
   LAMBERTVILLE — Tara Williamson could become the first woman and first teenager to serve on the Board of Fire Commissioners if she wins election Feb. 18.
   Also running with Miss Williamson is her dad, Kenneth Williamson Sr. Father and daughter both belong to the Hibernia Fire Company.
   They are running against two members of the Union Fire Company, Nate Waldron and incumbent Bob "Peachy" Hayes.
   Only two seats on the board are open this year. The first is held now by Mr. Hayes. The second is held by Craig Reading, who is not seeking re-election.
   Miss Williamson, 18, graduated last year from South Hunterdon Regional High School. She became a junior member of the fire company at the age of 15. She became an official member in August after she completed fire school.
   "Personally, I think it’s great what the fire companies in this city are doing for people, and I wanted to be a part of that," Miss Williamson said. "I may not be the biggest or strongest out there, but I can still get a job done."
   Ms. Williamson doesn’t believe her gender should cause a fuss.
   "I don’t see a difference in me being on the board as a female or a man being on the board," she said. "It all ends up as a person doing what’s best for the community, the residents and the department."
   The other three candidates have much experience serving their respective companies.
   Mr. Williamson, 49, is a captain in the Hibernia and a 12-year member of the city’s Fire Department. He is a retired member of the Lambertville-New Hope Ambulance and Rescue Squad, which he joined in 1970. He also spent five years with the Lambertville Office of Emergency Management. He twice ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the board, first in 2004 and again in 2005.
   If elected, Mr. Williamson said he would "make sure taxpayers’ money is used as efficiently as possible" while also obtaining "the best equipment possible for the firefighters."
   Another goal would be to keep the commission up to date.
   "I would try and have input so that the commission keeps up with changes and evolving procedures," he said.
   Mr. Hayes, 50, retired in June as chief of the Lambertville Fire Department of which he has been a member for 34 years. He has held a variety of positions throughout his career with the department, including line officer positions. He also worked as a paid firefighter at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station for 25 years until his retirement.
   Mr. Hayes previously served on the board from 1989 to 1992. His father, Robert Hayes Sr., also was active in the Lambertville Fire Department for many years.
   "My goal is to equip the fire department the best that we possibly can and at the same time be conscious of the taxpayers," Mr. Hayes said. "You have to get the tools and equipment you need but you also have to be aware that you’re spending the taxpayers’ money when you’re doing it; keep their needs in mind."
   Mr. Waldron, 39, is a second-generation member of the Union Fire Company. He has served as a city firefighter for 21 years and serves as treasurer of the Union Fire Company.
   He is employed by Benchmark Hospitality as director of conference services at the North Maple Inn in Basking Ridge. In addition, he runs a personal concierge service called Twenty-Five with his business partner, Stasia Thompson.
   His work in the hospitality industry qualifies him to work collaboratively with all four of the city’s fire companies in fundraising efforts that will be as successful in keeping the fire tax down as past fundraisers were, such as last year’s clam bake and the "7 Alarm Firehouse Supper," he said.
   He’d like to be creative in trying to hold the line on the fire tax, finding other ways to raise necessary funds for the firefighters, when possible.
   "You learn different things about different members through collaboration," said Mr. Waldron, who believes in "giving back" to the city. "You find out other people’s strengths, and you build on it, and you make the department stronger."
   Voting will not take place at the Columbia firehouse at 177 N. Union St., where elections were held in the past, because of an accidental fire there in November. Instead, the polls have been moved to the Union firehouse, near Lambertville Public School at 230 N. Union St.
   Polls will be open from 2 to 9 p.m. Absentee ballots may be picked up at City Hall at 18 York. St.