West Tisbury selectmen voted 2-0 to approve the promotion of police Sgt. Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter to the rank of lieutenant at the board’s weekly meeting Wednesday. Manter, the board chairman and a 42-year veteran of the force, recused himself from the vote.
“Sgt. Manter’s promotion was well deserved,” Chief Daniel Rossi said by phone Thursday.
The board also approved the employment contact for imminent Police Chief Matt Mincone, the department’s previous lieutenant. Chief Daniel Rossi told The Times he will hand off his shield to Mincone at midnight Friday.
Asked by The Times to comment on the Steamship Authority’s recent performance as it relates to West Tisbury residents, the selectmen, while largely supportive of the ferry service provider and its Island board member, Marc Hanover, found the SSA wanting in communications, a subject they’ve been roundly criticized for lately.
“There’s a series of unfortunate incidents, and I don’t know if you can hold any individual accountable,” Manter said. “Obviously people were inconvenienced, and a lot of people were upset, but we also live on an Island where things happen. I certainly feel bad. Of course, I got to ride the SeaStreak — that’s going to be the Steamship Authority’s greatest challenge, when all this is over and done with, is, Why don’t they have a SeaStreak?”
Manter and selectman Kent Healy went on to highlight the complexity of Steamship Authority vessels: “Under the circumstances, I think they’re doing the best they can with what they have,” Manter said. “Obviously they’re dealing with communication issues and things like that … but as far as boats breaking down, they’re much more complex and technical and computerized …”
Healy continued Manter’s line of reasoning: “I don’t think the public appreciates how difficult it is to keep that machinery operating properly.”
“We drive very complicated cars now. If the light comes on, we keep driving — until, OK, I’ll get it fixed,” Manter said. “You have to go to the gas station, you plug it in, they have to analyze it. Then they say, Oh sorry, we don’t have the right software. You have to take it to the dealer. But when their [SSA] light comes on, they can’t [do that].”
“They have to operate under very strict Coast Guard regulations. It’s not easy,” Healy added. “People’s lives are in jeopardy. You have to make sure things are compliant. I feel bad for them. I feel bad for the people of West Tisbury, but these are the circumstances that we have.”
He went on to express his confidence in Hanover and the governing board, and described the litany of issues the SSA recently faced as a sort of situational “perfect storm,” in reference to Sebastian Junger’s book.
“We’re just fortunate [they’ve] been able to accommodate most people, because of the time of year. I’m sure they’re doing everything they can,” Manter said. “I’m sure they’re expediting anyone who needs a medical appointment — I’m sure they’re taking care of them to the best of their abilities. And I appreciate what they’re doing. I’m certainly glad I’m not standing down on that dock.”
“I would mostly agree with what you’re saying,” selectman Cynthia Mitchell said, “but I think I’d emphasize — and I’ve been on the SeaStreak a couple of times over this period — how well-received it is as a ride.”
“And of course,” Manter said, “you couldn’t help but notice very few deckhands. The person who was working the lunch counter actually went up and tied the boat up.”
Mitchell lauded the customer service of the Steamship’s rank and file. Based on news coverage of the Steamship’s travails, Mitchell underscored Hanover’s position: “You know he’s saying what everyone is saying. The communications need to improve when something like that happens.”