Toughing it out: Roger Wey
In 1975, Roger Wey and his family moved from Bridgewater into the home he'd built in Oak Bluffs. "I was in the construction field," he says, "and the Martha's Vineyard Commission had a moratorium then on new home construction. Here I was wanting to start a business, and there was no business. If you were a small contractor, it was difficult, especially when you were new to Martha's Vineyard."
Such a beginning could have fostered a resentment of the regional agency that tells builders what they can and cannot do. But it's typical of Mr. Wey to have been able from the beginning to see beyond his personal predicament to the public good.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Mr. Wey says, "I understood the reason why. That's one of the reasons I moved here, you know what I mean? I understood that they wanted to preserve Martha's Vineyard, they wanted to slow things down and think about what was happening, where everything was going. This was part of the reason I chose Martha's Vineyard."
In January of 1976, Mr. Wey was hired to build a house, and from then on, he says, "I was busy all the time."
His move to the Vineyard was also part of a conscious decision to leave the high-pressure world of city construction projects. Before moving here, he worked as foreman or superintendent on such large Boston projects as the Providence Bank and Burlington Bank buildings and the Sheraton Boston Hotel, supervising hundreds of union carpenters. But he saw the toll that work took on men, and says, "I just didn't want to see myself burn out like that."
But you could say Mr. Wey traded one pressure-cooker for another by stepping into the political arena in Oak Bluffs. This year, after serving seven terms as selectman in Oak Bluffs, Mr. Wey is stepping down.
It helps to have a certain toughness to serve in Oak Bluffs politics. The tires on Mr. Wey's car have been slashed, and some people in town still won't speak to him because of stands he's taken over the years. Still, he speaks of the town he loves as a place where civic discourse, if sometimes feisty, is robust.
"Our town meeting went four nights in Oak Bluffs last year," says Mr. Wey. "Some people said, four nights - I can't stand it. I said, of all the town meetings I've attended in Oak Bluffs, that was the best, because of the participation. There was no healthier town meeting, in my opinion."
Oak Bluffs isn't like Edgartown, where a selectman can serve an entire career without facing an election challenge. Says Mr. Wey: "Every election, there are challenges - which is healthy." He speaks from experience: In his last run for election in 2006, Mr. Wey edged Christine Todd by just four votes in a hand recount.