Mark Conklin has had to live through the worst pain any parent can face. One month ago, he buried his only son.
But despite the grief and pain, Conklin, 58, an incumbent, has decided to run unopposed for re-election for Commissioner of the Riverhead Fire District for a five year term beginning January 1.
The days since his son, Mark, died suddenly have been filled with anguish. "I talked to him the day before," Conklin said.
Conklin said since losing his son, he wasn't sure if he would run again for his fire commissioner' seat.
"A lot of guys came up to me and said I should," he said.
His fellow firefighters, Conklin, an ex-chief, said, have helped him through the darkest year of his life. Three months ago, Conklin also lost his father.
"The fire department is a family," he said. "They're good people."
The first in his family to volunteer as a firefighter, Conklin said, "I've just lost my son, so I'm the first, and the last, generation."
Serving as a commissioner has been fulfilling, Conklin said. His goals, he said, "are to keep a good balance of a fair budget for the taxpayer and give our firefighters the things they need to do the job."
Over the past five years, Conklin said the board of fire commissioners has "really cleaned things up. We had a state audit and we came out good. It's an indicator that we run a tight ship."
Conklin said the positive state audit was a reflection on all five commissioners and of hard work and dedication across the board.
His fellow comrades sing Conklin's praises. "He's very diligent in performing his duties as a fire commissioner," said Robert Zaweski, secretary/treasurer of the Riverhead Fire District. "He does a big job, and he's very conscientious."
Looking forward, Conklin said during his next five years, his hope is to "just stay on the same course. With the way the economy is, things are tough. But the balance has to be there. I think we can achieve that. We built a good foundation -- and we're going to keep building on it."
The Riverhead Fire District election takes place Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Riverhead Fire Headquarters, 540 Roanoke Avenue.