Spring ushers in annual town meeting season on Martha’s Vineyard. During the next two months, voters in the six Island towns will take action on town warrants, decide budgets, and go to the polls to elect the officers who will decide town affairs.
Ballots are set for Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury. The ballot in Aquinnah closes on April 9. A survey of town ballots, at least those of the five towns that are set, reveals a dearth of contests. In most cases, those running for elected office are incumbents. In some cases, town offices will be decided by write-ins because no one at all took out papers.
There are a handful of contested races, all in Oak Bluffs and Tisbury. The lack of contested races is attributed to possible voter satisfaction with the way the towns are being run and to the small candidate pool on the Vineyard, Wendy Nierenburg of West Tisbury, a volunteer with the League of Women Voters, said. The League works to foster civic engagement and enhance voter access.
“With offices in six towns to fill and a small Island population, it’s no wonder that there is a shortage of candidates,” she said. “I have attended League forums in Falmouth where they have a much larger voter base to draw from, and they have don’t have the same problem we have.”
Marion Mudge, who has almost 40 years of experience in town government, from her first days on the finance committee in West Tisbury to her 30 years as Tisbury town clerk, explained it this way: “It’s a lot of work, and it can be a thankless job.”
She said the shortage of candidates could be the result of the difficulty younger people have fitting in public service with the time it takes to work and raise a family.
“When I first got involved in politics many of the positions came with a small stipend and medical insurance, you didn’t have to work that fourth job to make ends meet,” she said. “That was an extra incentive, for many younger people in particular, that no longer exists. I think that’s when the younger people began to lose interest.”
On the ballot
In Chilmark, selectman Warren Doty is unopposed for re-election. James Malkin and Marshall Carroll 3rd are seeking two of the three open finance committee positions. There are no contests. Election day is Wednesday, April 30.
In West Tisbury, Richard Knabel is unchallenged for re-election to the board of selectman. Longtime moderator Patrick Gregory and town clerk Tara Whiting are also unopposed. Town treasurer Katherine Logue is running unopposed for a job that, depending on what voters decide at town meeting, may become an appointed position. There are no declared candidates for one open seat on the board of assessors. Maria McFarland plans a write-in campaign for the one open seat, Ms. Whiting said. The election is set for Thursday, April 10.
There are no contested positions on the Edgartown ballot. Incumbent selectman Margaret Serpa is running for re-election, as is incumbent assessor Alan Gowell. There are no candidates on the ballot for the one board of health position or for the one seat on the planning board. The election is Thursday, April 10.
Ms. Mudge, the Tisbury town clerk, chose not run for re-election, setting up the one contest in town. Hillary Conklin and Barbara Lampson will compete to fill the vacant position. Melinda Loberg is running unopposed for the selectman job now held by Jeffrey Kristal, who declined to run for re-election. There are eight positions without candidates, five on the finance committee and three on the board of library trustees. Election day is Tuesday, May 13, in Tisbury.
Oak Bluffs features the only election that could be called a contest. incumbents Walter Vail and Michael Santoro and Abraham Seiman contest two seats on the board of selectmen. In other contested races, John Bradford and Ewell Hopkins are running for the one five-year term on the planning board; Michael Hoyt and Michele Moore are running for one position on the school committee; and Raymond Moreis Jr. is running against George Brown for water district commissioner. There are four candidates for three finance committee positions: Maura McGroarty, Abraham Seiman, Kimberly Burke, and Robert Huss. No one is running for one vacant spot on the board of health. The election is Thursday, April 10.
The last town election of the year is in Aquinnah, on Wednesday, May 14.