MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Mount Vernon residents expressed shock and sadness over reports that James Gleason, the long-tenured fire commissioner, has been hospitalized with aggressive throat cancer.
Gleason, 77, was hospitalized on Sunday with stage four throat cancer, which was diagnosed last month, the city confirmed. Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis spent time with the longtime commissioner on Tuesday at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx.
Resident Emerson Mureca said the community doesn’t necessarily trust every city official, but that he never had to worry about Gleason’s motives.
“You hear stories all of the time about people skimming, or people acting in their best interests, not the publics,” he said at the train station. “We never had to bat an eye or worry about anything under the table with [Gleason.]”
Gleason still has the ability to speak and his lungs are being monitored by doctors, the city confirmed. Cancer is said to have reached stage four when it has spread for its original site in the body to other organs.
“It’s a shame to hear, he’s been a part of this city for as long as I can remember,” Jean Guthrie said near City Hall. “Hopefully he’s able to fight it and keep running things.”
The Mount Vernon Fire Department deferred further comment until a later date. In his absence, Deputy Fire Commissioner Noah Lighty and the fire chief are overseeing operations at the Mount Vernon Fire Department.
Resident Sal Lopez, who used to be a volunteer firefighter out of state, said he didn’t know the fire commissioner personally, but added that the fire department was a point of pride in Mount Vernon. The department features four firehouses spread around the city on Lincoln and South Fulton Avenue and West Third and Oak Street.
“We don’t have the best of everything in Mount Vernon, but our firefighters work their [butts] off to keep us safe,” he said. “I think the department will be alright while he fights.”