Ballots set for Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and Tisbury elections

Oak Bluffs chairman Kathy Burton and Tisbury chairman Larry Gomez will not run for re-election.

Departing Oak Bluffs chairman of the selectmen Kathy Burton.

Updated March 14, 11:45 am

Town elections for Edgartown and Oak Bluffs will take place on Thursday, April 12, and selectmen races in both towns look to be spirited affairs. Tisbury’s election is April 24 and there is no contested race for selectman.

In Oak Bluffs, three candidates will run for two seats on the board of selectmen. Longtime incumbent Greg Coogan will be running for re-election, while FinCom chairman Jason Balboni and airport commission vice chairman Rich Michaelson will also vie for a seat. Michaelson, also an EMT, has been a vocal critic of the leadership of fire/EMS Chief John Rose.

Current chairman Kathy Burton told The Times on Wednesday that she decided not to run for re-election in order to spend time caring for her elderly mother in Florida. Burton attended several meetings in the past year via teleconference from Florida.

“I’m in eldercare now, that’s my job,” she said, speaking to The Times from her mother’s home. “Remote participation is not the right way to be a selectman. It might work for some people, but it doesn’t work for me.”

Burton served on the board for nine years, which included some tumultuous years in Oak Bluffs town hall. She also served as interim town administrator before Robert Whritenour was hired.
Reflecting on her time on the board, Burton said the town’s financial recovery tops the list.

“Our financial status has improved leaps and bounds,” she said. “I give Bob [Whritenour] a lot of credit for that. He’s a tremendous talent, and I’m glad we were able to procure him. He improved our financial stability and totally changed our procurement process.”

Other highlights Burton cited were infrastructure improvements — the North Bluff seawall, the new fire/EMS station, and the soon-to-be new town hall.
“Also, fighting for the roundabout and succeeding!” she said in a follow-up email.

There will be an even bigger infusion of new blood on the Oak Bluffs planning board. Former chairman and long-tenured member Brian Packish is not running for another five-year term. Board member Bo Fehl is also not running for re-election.
Donalexander Goss is running unopposed for Packish’s seat. Mark Crossland, currently on the board finishing out Jeremiah McCarthy’s four-year term, is running unopposed for that four-year seat. JoJo Lambert and Abraham Sieman will be competing for the open two-year seat on the board.
After serving for 55 years as a parks commissioner, Allan “Buddy” deBettencourt will not run for re-election. Anton Mitchell Lima is running unopposed for the three-year term. According to the 1963 annual town report, deBettencourt was first elected as a Park Commission for one year on February, 12, 1963.

Long-serving tree warden Joseph deBettencourt will also not run for re-election. Highway department supervisor Richie Combra is running unopposed for the position.

In Edgartown, Gail Gardner is looking to unseat longtime selectman Arthur Smadbeck. Gardner has been an outspoken critic of town administrator Pam Dolby and the board of selectmen, in particular about the selection process for the new police chief.

In the race for planning board, Chappaquiddick resident Robert Strayton, who has threatened legal action against the town over the new cell tower on Chappy, is running against Scott Morgan. The position was held by the late Coo Cavallo. Cavallo’s term would have been up this year.

Tisbury selectmen chairman Larry Gomez has decided not to run for re-election. “I’m ready to take a break and let some young folks give it a try,” Gomez told The Times. “I will miss it, because I do like town government.”

There are two or three people who reach out virtually every day, and make being a leader less enjoyable, he said. “They don’t know how to compromise,” he said.

Gomez has served only one term on the board of selectmen, but was a longtime member of the finance and advisory board. “I just want to do other things,” he said. “It takes up a lot of time — 20 to 25 hours a week, and several nights a week.”

Jim Rogers, a retired firefighter, is the lone candidate on the ballot. He ran unsuccessfully against Melinda Loberg last year.

Four people are vying for three seats on the finance and advisory committee — incumbents Nancy Gilfoy, Thomas Keller, and Paul Cefola are being challenged by Laura Rose.

There are no other contested races in Tisbury, according to town clerk Hillary Conklin, and at least one library trustee position will need either a write-in candidate or an appointment.

George Brennan contributed to this report.

Updated with Larry Gomez’s decision not to run for re-election.