Tisbury voters did themselves a good turn three years ago when they elected Jeff Kristal selectman. Mr. Kristal, along with Geoghan Coogan, also a relative newcomer to the three-man board, has helped to rationalize the executive leadership of Tisbury town government, making lines of authority clearer and vesting in town administrator John Bugbee more of the responsibility his job should entail.
Voters will help themselves again on April 26, by reelecting Mr. Kristal.
Small municipalities are service providers. As is the case with hospitals, ferry lines, and service businesses of all sorts, personnel costs are key to the financial health of the enterprise and its ability to do its job, public or private. The cost of full-time employees in Tisbury town government, excluding wages and taxes, is greater than 14 percent of the town’s total budget. That’s highest among the three largest Island towns. Tisbury has the smallest total operating budget of the three big towns and the second largest workforce.
This means that managing town spending and services as efficiently and economically as possible is vitally important. It requires a point of view that is businesslike, consultative, and questioning, and one that is inclined toward economic growth and sensitive development, to offset inescapably rising municipal costs and consequent tax increases. Finally, it requires a viewpoint without conflicts that may arise when chief executives are also public employees. Mr. Kristal has brought just these qualities to the job.
“The town is in a more progressive place than we have been in years past,” Mr. Kristal argued in answers to questions posed to the candidates by The Times. “We have good forward momentum in all aspects of the town and I want to continue that forward-moving momentum and not slide backwards. We have corrected past issues in the police department, (union contracts signed, leadership and chain of command issues solved); we have eliminated self-appointments to key positions; and we now communicate more effectively with other town departments and other Island entities than we have in recent memory.
“We have mended many fences that were broken when I took office. Everything takes time, and we have made significant progress on all these issues in the past three years. We have demanded more accountability from our department heads, and they have delivered. The current board works well together and we need to keep that continuity.”
Mr. Kristal has a sound, moderate approach to town finances — not promising too much, but suggesting a management approach likely to yield happy results.
“Over the last three years the selectmen have worked closely with the finance committee,” he told The Times. “We will continue to focus on additional revenue sources as well as budget expenses by department, infrastructure needs. and capital improvements, competing budget demands and priorities. I will continue to work closely with the department heads and committees to keep flat or reduced operating budgets and utilize effectively the Community Preservation funds, the embarkation funds, the waterway funds, and the green community grant monies that the town receives. We will share resources with other towns where it is clear that it makes financial sense to do so and work on raising revenue from underutilized sources such as the Park-and-Ride lot, and examine the full potential of the old fire station lot when it is abandoned.”
Voters who favor careful and disciplined town government, which operates on thoughtful, broad-minded consideration of important issues, will want to keep the current Tisbury chief executive threesome together by reelecting Jeff Kristal.