Town clerk is a two-way race in Tisbury

Incumbent Hillary Conklin faces a challenge from Joseph McCarthy for town clerk in the May 9 town election.

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Hillary Conklin is facing a challenge from Joseph McCarthy for the Tisbury town clerk election. Polls are open at the fire station on Spring Street from noon to 8 pm on Tuesday. —Stacey Rupolo

The town clerk fulfills five administrative roles, as the legislative administrator, chief elections officer and clerk officio of the board of registrars, chief public information administrator, public records officer and licensing administrator, and census and voter registration administrator.

Incumbent Hillary Conklin faces a challenge by Joseph McCarthy for the 32-hour-per-week position with an annual salary of $90,703.

This week The Times asked each candidate to describe his or her background and qualifications and respond to two questions in a set amount of words. Their biographies and answers, lightly edited, follow.

Hillary Conklin grew up in Northampton, and moved to the Island in 1985 after attending the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Although Northampton was an interesting place to grow up, Ms. Conklin said, it had no ocean. Ms. Conklin did the “Island shuffle” until 2002, when she settled in Tisbury. She found her new home at the Tisbury Town Hall in 1997, after leaving the Edgartown National Bank. She began her training as administrative secretary for the board of selectmen and remained in that position, gaining knowledge in varied areas, until 2014. It was then, she said, that she was “fortunate” to have the voters’ confidence, and was elected as town clerk after Marion Mudge decided to retire after 30 years.

Joseph McCarthy moved to the Vineyard in 1990, and for the past 15 years has lived in Tisbury, where he and his wife, Heather McCarthy, a member of Tisbury’s multigenerational Lopes and Authier families and longtime server at Linda Jean’s Restaurant, own a home. Mr. McCarthy is a proud dad of three — his daughter, Maggie, and two sons, Dylan and Patrick.

He’s had an extensive career in entertainment production, and has worked in business management since his arrival on Martha’s Vineyard. Mr. McCarthy has managed the Citgo Gas Station and Xtra Mart in Tisbury for the past 23 years, and said people have called him “the unofficial town clerk” there.

Why did you decide to run for town clerk?

Ms. Conklin: I can’t imagine working anywhere else. I’m a lifer. Town hall and municipal government are a bit of a calling. There’s a lot of responsibility on very few shoulders, and it’s always the busy season or deadline for something; but it is truly the genuine and helpful group of people we work with and the townspeople that we work for that make us stay for so many years. The appreciation and support of my colleagues spurs me on in this challenging position.

Mr. McCarthy: Almost a year ago, Tisbury residents, town officials, and business owners approached me and asked me to run for this office. They all thought I would be a great fit for the town clerk position. I was truly humbled.

I started my research on this historical town position. I asked many questions of people who hold and have held elected positions on the Island. Finally, I prayed about it. With the support of our community, friends, and family, I decided to run for the office. I love to help people. I love a challenge. I am not afraid of hard work. I am teachable, trainable, flexible, and always strive to do the next right thing. I have served the public for the majority of my life in the private sector, and now I would like to continue serving the public in the public sector. I believe that together we can make Tisbury even better.

What are some of the most important aspects of the position of town clerk?

Ms. Conklin: We clerks have a slogan: “Town clerks don’t run the town, we make the town run.” Our office works directly and regularly with all town departments, boards, and committees. A constant goal is to earn and maintain their trust and respect. Many duties of our office are statutory and follow Massachusetts general laws. There is no light lifting, and it is all important. Folks think of our office as in charge of elections, the census (for Steamship Authority excursion rates), and dog licenses. If only the list was that short.

Education and training are crucial to the job, and I earned enough credits to become a certified municipal clerk. The town invested in me by funding my attendance at three state town clerk conferences each year, as well as mentoring workshops. I graduated from the New England Municipal Clerk Institute in New Hampshire in an effort to keep up with the list and be worthy of the position.

Another important aspect is knowing whom to call and when: developing relationships with folks at the Attorney General’s office, the elections division of the Secretary of State, and other state agencies. Our profession includes safeguarding birth, marriage, death, and other permanent town records, and always acting in the best interest of the town.

Mr. McCarthy: I have met and spoken with town officials, and all agree that the town clerk must be there to serve the public and have the ability to answer the people’s questions. I know if I do not have the answer to a question, I will get that person and the question to the proper department to be answered.

I believe that the most important aspect of the town clerk position will be providing service to the residents of our town and being able to assist all. I am well aware that the voters and the residents are the town’s bosses. The town clerk works for the people.

To me, that would be a job and a life worth remembering — a job of service to others. If elected, I will do the job with integrity. I will get questions answered. I will always be able to answer the question, if asked, “How does one live a life worth living?” Thank you all. I’ll be there to serve you.