Tisbury race for selectmen’s seat features familiar foes

Jeff Kristal — Photo by Steve Myrick

Tisbury voters will be asked on Tuesday, April 26, to choose between two candidates for one position on the three-member board of selectmen.

Incumbent Jeff Kristal defends his seat against Tom Pachico. The race is a rematch of the hard-fought election battle three years ago, in which Mr. Kristal, owner of the Crocker House Inn and a member of the zoning board of appeals, unseated Mr. Pachico, a three-term incumbent and longtime Tisbury health agent, who is the owner of a septic system inspection business.

The polls are open from noon to 8 pm on Tuesday at the American Legion Hall opposite the Tisbury School.

The Times emailed the following questions to each candidate. Their responses follow:

Why are you running for re-election? As part of your answer, please describe one or two of your chief goals in the past three years. Have you met them?

Jeff Kristal: The town is in a more progressive place than we have been in years past. 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.

Why are you running for election? As part of your answer, please describe the ways in which you would correct what you regard as failures of leadership on your opponent’s part over the past three years.

Tom Pachico: I was approached by several people asking me to consider running again. It seems some thought they needed someone with common sense, and knowledge of fishing, shellfishing, and boating to listen to, and represent them.

Others thought that my background in the construction field, and the ability to read plans would be a much-needed addition to the board. I think my can-do attitude and straightforward approach gets things done. Many people have told me that they appreciate not having to figure out what I really mean when I speak. Sometimes it ruffles feathers, but sometimes feathers need ruffling.

My opponent says “You catch more flies with honey then vinegar,” but having grown up on a mini farm I can tell you exactly what pile attracts the most flies! I find it hard to believe that CPA funds were not used this year to repair the leaks in the Town Hall building before there is more serious and expensive damage done. It is after all a town-owned historical building in desperate need of repair. I also think communication between the Town Hall and the Annex has been sorely lacking.

I’m disappointed that the best solution to the “shoveling snow off the sidewalks” problem is upping the fines. I see the upstairs windows open when it’s freezing outside, in the Tisbury School; I think it’s time to finally fix the heating system. I also don’t see any of the safety measures incorporated into the new fire station that were proposed when safety for our school children was questioned.

What is your view of the proposal to merge the Tisbury and Oak Bluffs police departments? Is Tisbury prepared to manage effectively the transition, and should the merger go forward?

Mr. Kristal: The report which proposes merging the two departments is one piece of the process necessary for discussing merger opportunities with the Oak Bluffs police department. We are still waiting on a report from the Department of Revenue which has been asked to conduct a financial review of the two towns.

Police personnel have yet to be formally consulted and need to be as we should not make a decision in a vacuum. The report does not address all my concerns or concerns expressed by others and needs to be prior to moving on. I am not satisfied with the report and currently do not see a true benefit, financially or structurally, in a merger with Oak Bluffs; it should not be a “wash” for Tisbury, there should be value and benefit. I will await the additional information I mentioned and I will continue to keep an open mind.

Mr. Pachico: I don’t favor a merger, but instead a sharing of duties. By that I mean possibly a shared court officer, maybe sharing a secretary, and sometime in the future maybe a chief. The police and the fire departments on this Island work well together and should be commended for the jobs they do.

I know from my nine years on the board, that in order to have two officers on duty, for three shifts, seven days a week, with coverage for sick and vacation time, we have the minimum necessary amount of police officers. Merging with anyone won’t change that, but I am always willing to listen.

Please outline some measures you would take to control town costs and restrain the tax burden placed on town property owners?

Mr. Kristal: Some costs that Tisbury is obligated to pay are beyond our control, such as employee pensions and medical benefits. And while it’s no surprise to anyone that these costs go up every year, the amount that they go up can be staggering. Add to that the cost of rising insurance rates, energy costs and the uncertainty of state funding, you really have to be looking consciously to control spending and look for additional revenue sources, and I am. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Association recently published a report which included a list of recommendations that the town will be looking at to implement. In addition to that is a list that the legislature needs to address. I will continue to voice to our state representative and senator that we need real reform and the tools necessary to reduce this burden on our town’s budget.

Over the last three years the selectmen have worked closely with the finance committee. 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.

Mr. Pachico: I would advise paying down debt, and not taking on any substantial new debt for a few years, until the economy comes back, and we all can find two nickels to rub together. Better scrutiny of articles, and following up on progress made, and remaining funds left in articles would help assure that we are getting the best bang for the buck. [The rule of thumb that] small money for maintenance beats big money to replace buildings and equipment, needs to be adhered to. I’m tired of hearing it said that there is “no better time to borrow” than today; I say there is no worse time to have to pay back. We weren’t all born with a silver spoon in our mouths.

How do you respond to the view that Tisbury selectmen micromanage town affairs?

Mr. Kristal: Micromanaging is a way of the past. Whether it was happening or not there was a perception that it was, so it needed to be addressed and has been. Our town department heads report to the town administrator who is in charge of the day-to-day supervision and operation of the town. The town administrator addresses issues in all departments and reports his findings to the board of selectmen at the appropriate time. It’s important for all employees to understand that there is a chain of command and it must be followed. It is not the job of the selectmen to micromanage, the job of the board of selectmen is to set policy and procedure, appoint members to committees, approve the budget and appoint chief personnel. The board of selectmen acts by majority rule, not unanimity, and while it’s appropriate for department heads to come before the board to report department situations and express concerns, it should not mean that the selectmen individually shoulddirect department heads; that is the role of the town administrator.

You are the town’s health agent and a full-time town employee. If elected, how would you separate your responsibilities and should wearing multiple hats be an issue for voters?

Mr. Pachico: Sounds like two things, it’s one. My full-time job is being your health agent. I do other things to try to pay my bills, such as umpiring softball games, and Title V inspections in other towns on the side.

As your health agent I work to enforce the federal, state and local health regulations, none of which selectmen are allowed to interfere in, as per state law. The state found it wise a long time ago not to allow political pressure to jeopardize public health.

Selectmen are in charge of money, property, and employees mainly. I work for a board of three health commissioners who have sole control of the health department. In the nine years that I was a selectman I can’t recall any conflicts with the two hats, but I can tell you that the communication between town hall and annex departments was vastly better.

On the other hand, my opponent who used this question to muddy the waters to gain votes in our last campaign, has for the last three years remained on the zoning board of appeals. Another selectman often represents clients in front of the ZBA; that seems to me to be a clear conflict and even if he abstains the potential for repercussions remains.