Election 2012: MVC race includes mix of old guard and newcomers

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The Martha’s Vineyard Commission was established by an act of the legislature in 1974 as a regional land use planning and regulatory agency with broad powers to oversee and permit developments of regional impact (DRI) and to develop regional regulations for areas approved as districts of critical planning concern (DCPC).

The commission has 21 members. Vineyard voters elect nine in Island-wide elections held every two years, the Island’s boards of selectmen appoint six, the Dukes County Commission appoints one, and the governor appoints five, of whom four do not vote on DRIs or DCPCs.

Residents of one town may vote for candidates from other towns, but at least one commissioner must be elected from each town, and no more than two elected commissioners may sit from any one town.

For example, if the candidates with the three highest vote totals are from the same town, only the two with the highest vote totals will be elected to the MVC. If a candidate with the lowest vote total overall were the only candidate from that town, he or she would be elected.

Fourteen for nine

Fourteen names appear on the ballot for nine slots. Five of the 14 candidates are incumbents.

Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, owner of Vineyard Electronics, on the MVC since 1992, is the longest-serving member.

John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs, a commissioner since 2004, works in the food service industry.

Christina Brown of Edgartown, a commissioner since 1997, is retired from her former job as the assistant to the Edgartown Planning Board.

Erik Hammarlund of West Tisbury, a commissioner since 2011, is an attorney whose law office is in Vineyard Haven.

E. Douglas Sederholm of Chilmark, a commissioner since 2003, is an attorney and also serves on the Chilmark Finance Advisory Committee.

Incumbents Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs and Camille Rose of Aquinnah currently serve on the MVC as appointees of their respective boards of selectmen and will seek to win a set in the election.

Mr. Hancock, appointed in 2010, is a self-employed technical director for corporate meetings.

Ms. Rose, appointed in 2009, is a former selectman and planning board chairman.

Seven candidates are new to the MVC, and in most cases, elective politics. They include Clarence A. Barnes III of Tisbury, Madeline Fisher of Edgartown, Joshua S. Goldstein of Tisbury, Joseph Gordon Jims of Oak Bluffs, James T. Miller of Edgartown, Susanna Surgis of West Tisbury, and David F. Willoughby of Tisbury.

This week, The Times asked each to briefly describe his or her reason for seeking a seat on the MVC. For several, the MVC approval of the roundabout was a motivating factor.

Mr. Barnes is the owner of Barnes Moving and Storage on State Road and a well-known Island figure often relied upon for auctions skills. He said the MVC handled the Oak Bluffs roundabout poorly. “I think the MVC is sorely in need of an injection of realistic blood,” Mr. Barnes said. “I think I can contribute something. I think I have a finger on the pulse of what Martha’s Vineyard needs and how to simplify things.”

Ms. Fisher, an art gallery owner, painter, and licensed real estate broker, said she is concerned about Island change and growth. “We need to take a more proactive role; we’ve not done enough to preserve our heritage,” she said. “We’ve done too little to save the land and done nothing to save our rural roads. I spent a lot of time working on the roundabout issue, which is an important example of how the Island’s character can slip away.”

Mr. Goldstein, the youngest candidate at age 33, is the manager of his family’s business, the Mansion House Inn, in Vineyard Haven. He said he decided to run because he feels he can contribute to the MVC from a business perspective and as a representative of the younger Island generation.

“I grew up here and recently moved back to the Island three years ago,” Mr. Goldstein said. “And I feel like it’s time for me to become part of this community. There are a lot of people from my high school class [class of 1998] who are back on the Island, and I think it’s time we’re represented in public office.”

Mr. Jims is a self-employed plumber who has lived on Martha’s Vineyard for 17 years. He currently serves on the Oak Bluffs School Advisory Council.

“I am running for the MVC because there needs to be a change of the guard,” he told The Times. “There are commissioners who have been on the MVC for over 7 years. That is too long.”

Mr. Miller is the environmental coordinator for the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah. He said his job as the MVC’s transportation planner when he first moved to the Island in 2006 motivated him to run as a commissioner.

“In that experience, I often felt very sympathetic towards DRI applicants,” he said. “That is not to say the commissioners who are on the commission now are doing a poor job at all. I have a high respect for them. But I think while they often get the answer right, the process they go through to get it is more burdensome than it needs to be.”

Mr. Miller said the MVC’s job also is to serve as a resource to the Island towns and to work together with them for mutual benefit.

Ms. Sturgis describes herself as an editor, blogger, and tenant who has dealt with year-round housing issues for the 27 years she has lived on the Vineyard. She said her decision to run for the MVC stemmed from her involvement in the fight against the roundabout and her attendance at many MVC meetings and public hearings. “What I saw apart from the issues involved, was that the MVC commissioners could use some improvement in discussion, and the ability to analyze information and speak clearly,” Ms. Sturgis said. “I looked at what I can do, and those are skills I’ve got. If elected, I think I can make an improvement.”

Mr. Willoughby is a carpenter and co-owner of Cricket and Rainman Builders. “I thought it may be time somebody from the trades should be on the commission, because tradesmen haven’t really been represented,” he said.

Mr. Willoughby said he has seen many regulatory changes, not always for the better. “Some of the restrictions that have been put in place over the years, I don’t think people realize how many tradesmen it affects when a project is shot down, carpenters, plumbers, drywallers, painters, landscapers, the list goes on, ” he said. “There is a huge trickle-down effect, and I hope to contribute in the MVC’s discussions from the standpoint of who it affects and how.”