Incumbent Melinda Loberg faces a challenge from Jim Rogers for one seat on the Tisbury board of selectmen in the May 9 town election.
This week The Times asked each candidate to describe his or her background and qualifications and respond to three questions in a set amount of words. Their biographies and answers, lightly edited, follow.
Melinda Fuller Loberg is the current chairman of the Tisbury board of selectmen. She said her Vineyard roots came through her grandfather, who was born on William Street in Vineyard Haven and raised sheep on Main Street. Spending summers on Tashmoo bonded her to the Vineyard for life. After college and graduate school, she worked as a family and adolescent therapist and in conflict resolution in various community and school settings while raising two children. Retirement brought her back to her home — Vineyard Haven. She enjoyed her volunteer work as an EMT and serving on the board of directors at Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard and Tisbury Waterways. Her interest in water quality led to her involvement in town committees, including the harbor management committee and wastewater committee.
Jim Rogers is a lifelong resident of Tisbury. He is married and has two sons; one lives in Tisbury, and the other in Virginia. Mr. Rogers has been involved in town government in several ways, and has experience in state government while running a state agency as well. He is an electrician and has owned a business since 1977, and also has a consulting firm where he performs forensic investigations and code analysis, as well as providing instruction on electrical and fire codes. With a bachelor’s degree in fire science, and a minor in criminal justice, Mr. Rogers has taken several classes that involved municipal administration. He believes that his background, along with his practical experience, will be valuable should he get elected.
Why did you decide to run for election to the board of selectmen?
Ms. Loberg: Three years ago, people urged me to seek the job of selectman. Even with the preparation of 12 years on the Tisbury finance advisory committee, and having chaired the wastewater planning committee and harbor management committee, I knew that the selectman’s job would demand increased time and effort. I am glad for the three years I have served the town, as challenges have been met and progress made. Today, I am better prepared to continue helping the town achieve its goals with a thoughtful, informed, and collaborative style.
Mr. Rogers: I have wanted to run for the board of selectmen for many years; however, I felt it could be a conflict while I was assistant chief in the Tisbury Fire Department. The conflict could be either an issue involving the fire department or simply trying to divide time between both. Due to Massachusetts General Laws, I have to resign from the fire department as I turn 65 this year. That being said, I have served on several town boards in the past: the board of health, the Tisbury finance and advisory committee, the personnel board, the zoning board of appeals, and other committees. In addition, while working for the commonwealth of Massachusetts and being in charge of a state agency from 1989 to 1996, I learned a great deal about government in general.
What would you suggest can be done to reduce the pressure on Tisbury taxpayers?
Ms. Loberg: The town is now discussing how best to replace or repair our aging elementary school while containing tax pressures and leaving room for other needed services and infrastructure. Part of the answer is to aggressively seek grant funding. The federal government built our drawbridge. The state is preparing to rebuild Beach Road. There is a pending grant application to rebuild our seawall. The state will largely rebuild our Lake Street landing. Tisbury has joined the state’s Complete Streets Program, providing up to $400,000 annually for road and sidewalk improvements. There is another grant pending to assist us with our wastewater needs.
Tisbury taxpayers provide infrastructure and services for a population much larger than its small tax base. We have been working and should continue to work in partnership with our commercial districts. Successful businesses bring in needed revenue from our many vacationers, currently in the form of commercial property taxes as well as room and meal taxes. We should protect our taxpayers by continuing to explore revenue streams that capitalize on the tourist industry, like adding moorings for nightly rentals in the harbor. Dialogue with the state needs to be maintained as the legislature defines and allows new sources of tourist-related income. Infrastructure costs such as affordable housing and wastewater should benefit from these proposals.
Mr. Rogers: I have a number of ideas that I would like to bring forward that I believe could help the town and limit the effect on the taxpayers.
There are a number of issues that are facing taxpayers, and they need to be accomplished while limiting the effect on the taxpayer. The school is probably the largest at this time. I have always been proud of the education that I received while attending the Tisbury School, and that level has continued or grown over the years, so I support the needs of the Tisbury School. I believe that it is the job of the selectmen to find a way to minimize the impact on the taxpayer while meeting the needs of the school. We desperately need a new town hall, and yet it keeps being pushed to the background while other projects take precedence. It is unfair that we ask the people who run the town to work in the conditions that they are faced with, and provide limited access to the public, as there is very little parking. How do we meet these goals without an adverse impact on the taxpayer? First, we support and entice the entire business community in the town, as a thriving business community brings added revenue into the town. Secondly, we seek private-public partnerships — not a new idea: Just look at one of our longtime residents, Katharine Cornell, and what she did in the 1960s and 1970s. Thirdly, we continue to seek state and federal grants.
What is the state of Tisbury?
Ms. Loberg: Good fiscal management and budgeting have preserved the town’s AA-plus bond rating. Tisbury has made good strides since reincorporating the Department of Public Works (DPW) to work directly under the town administrator. New personnel are in key positions — treasurer, DPW director, information technology (IT), and human resources — and all have brought new energy, professionalism, and a spirit of teamwork to the service of taxpayers. The new website has increased community outreach, as has each selectman’s direct participation in one or more town boards and committees. Tisbury continues to realize a great deal of bang for the buck thanks to its hard-working and dedicated staff and many committed board and committee volunteers.
Mr. Rogers: In my opinion, the state of Tisbury is relatively good. There are two issues that deeply concern me. First is the diminishing business community and the empty storefronts. I believe that it is extremely important for the selectmen to work with the business community. The second is the large projects that are facing the town and the impact they could have on the town. Lastly, there appear to be issues within many of our town departments, and I believe they can be solved by making sure that all department heads have sound written policies and that they are held accountable for carrying out those policies on a fair and uniform basis, so the selectmen can deal with the other important issues they need to handle.