Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther Receives Golden Trumpet Award

FLC_-0027The FASNY Golden Trumpet Award is given to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional support and assistance to the volunteer fire service. Historically this award has been given to New York State legislators, government officials and others who have shown a commitment to supporting the volunteer fire service.

Past winners include U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, state Assemblyman Michael Bragman, internationally recognized writer Kurt Vonnegut, U.S. Sen. Alphonse D’Amato and state Sen. Dale Volker. The award has been presented 17 times over the last 25 years.

This year’s award winner is state Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther from Assembly District 100 representing the Sullivan and Orange County area of New York State. Assemblywoman Gunther was elected to the New York Assembly in 2003 after the untimely death of her husband, Jake. She spent most of her youth in Orange County. After marrying Jake, they decided to raise their three children in Sullivan County.

Assemblywoman Gunther earned her nursing degree and spent many years working at Catskill Regional Medical Center. After working in various nursing units, she accepted an infection control position before moving on to become the director of performance improvement and risk management.

Assemblywoman Gunther is a fierce advocate for the people she represents. She fights for increased funding for our schools and fire departments as well as access to health care for all New Yorkers. She has worked with Governor Andrew Cuomo to lower middle class taxes, close a $15 billion deficit and reduce state spending. In 2011, Assemblywoman Gunther helped pass much needed ethics reform to restore public trust in state government.

Whether it be for her constituents or members of the volunteer fire service across New York State, Assemblywoman Gunther has been a tireless advocate. For many years, FASNY had sought statutory protections that would allow departments to exclude sex offenders from membership within the volunteer fire service.

The history of this legislation is long and one that always seemed to end in disappointment in the New York State Assembly. But, when Assemblywoman Gunther sees an issue that is important to the health and welfare of her constituents, she goes to work.

Taking over the bill as the prime sponsor meant FASNY now had an advocate who would not rest until something was done. When it seemed like all avenues for an agreement on this legislation were blocked, she jumped into action. She went directly to the speaker of the New York State Assembly and demanded action.

This was not the norm, but Assemblywoman Gunther was not concerned about protocol; she wanted results. For us in the fire service, we now had a tireless advocate working on our behalf.

She was taking this important issue to the highest levels of the Assembly to ensure something was done. The bill passed and was signed by Governor Cuomo. It was a bill that made it to the Governor’s desk only because of Assemblywoman Gunther’s tireless advocacy. She was, and she continues to be, our champion.

Last year we again faced a similar legislative dilemma. How do we get the legislature to pass a piece of legislation that was so fundamental to the health and safety of our volunteer firefighters? How do we finally get the legislature to provide the same benefits that many of our brethren in the career service are statutorily provided? As many of you know, we have made a tireless effort to pass legislation would provide expanded cancer benefits for volunteer firefighters under the New York State Volunteer Firefighters Benefit Law.

Last year, we finally had some success. First, state Sen. Michael Nozzolio was able to pass his bill in the New York State Senate. Second, and what might be the most important change, Assemblywoman Gunther once again agreed to be our champion and take over the bill as the prime sponsor. Already, we now have 29 Assembly members who have joined her bill as co-sponsors.

Nothing is easy in the legislature and our job is not done, but we now have a champion on our side; someone we know will work tirelessly to pass this vitally important bill.

It is with great pleasure that the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York presents the 2015 Golden Trumpet Award to Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther.