Tony Peak, Tisbury's planning board chairman
Tony Peak. Photo by Ralph Stewart
After serving five years on Tisbury's planning board, Tony Peak has been in the spotlight recently in his role as a volunteer town planner, helping to reshape and improve Vineyard Haven. With proposed downtown parking lot changes, the release of a draft town master plan, and voters' approval of a connector road system linking State Road with Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Mr. Peak said this week that he looks forward to seeing what were once abstract plans move closer to reality.
As chairman of the planning board for the past three and a half years, Mr. Peak has dedicated many hours to shaping his town's future. In talking about how his interest in planning evolved, he recalled a defining moment almost 30 years ago, long before he had a family or even thought about town planning.
Strolling down Church Street one day in Vineyard Haven and looking around at what he considered an idyllic Island neighborhood, he remembers thinking, "This was someplace I could envision walking down the street, holding the hands of my children."
At that time, Mr. Peak was living in Manhattan. He had come to the Vineyard for the summer to work at Camp Jabberwocky MV Cerebral Palsy Camp. Returning to work at the camp the next year, he realized at the end of the summer that he wanted to stay on the Island. Offered a construction job on the Island, he did the "winter rental shuffle" until he bought a home in Vineyard Haven in 1997.
As a new homeowner, he registered to vote and started attending town meetings. After the first one, Mr. Peak said he realized "how complex these issues are that come up to be voted on by people, and how little I know about them." Determined to familiarize himself with the issues, he went to Tisbury's town hall the next day to try to find out about public meetings he could attend.
After talking with Marion Mudge, the town clerk, for several minutes, she suggested he run for one of the three open slots on the town's finance and advisory committee (FinCom) as a good way to get to know about the town.
With only a week to go before the town elections, Mr. Peak attended a FinCom meeting, where he said he was "enthusiastically encouraged by the members" to run. He ended up with 70 write-in votes. "I surprised them all at town hall," Mr. Peak said.
The next year, after hearing him speak about issues at the second town meeting he attended, several people urged him to get involved on the planning board. Mr. Peak ran unopposed and was elected to a five-year term.
As the junior member among the five on the board, he found the work difficult at first. In many cases, the planning board is a special permit granting authority. Mr. Peak said that in terms of zoning and permitting, "It has taken me five years to even begin to understand some of the complexities."
A year and a half after his election to the board, Mr. Peak became the chairman. "And at this point, in the end of my fifth year, I am the senior person in terms of time on the board - the entire board has been replaced," he said.
"Fortunately, because of very interested people serving on the board, each one has an interest that works out very well. Henry Stephenson spends an immense amount of time doing drawings, and the other board members also are very involved," Mr. Peak explained.
Describing himself as the board's senior member and "the one who kind of knows the rules," he credits Pat Harris, the board's administrative assistant, for providing the "institutional memory" from her 14 years of experience.
Mr. Peak said he would like to run for the planning board position again. "I have a lot of momentum going now. I would like to contribute to getting the master planning effort through to its next stage," he said.
In addition to his time spent on the planning board, Mr. Peak works for Michael Carroll and Friends Construction, a small construction, and remodeling and renovation company. He has two daughters, Barra, age 10, and Vivian, 4 months, and one son, Eben, age 5. Mr. Peak met their mother, Rachel Orr, on the Vineyard, and they have been together 11 years. She works as a title examiner for the law offices of Reynolds, Rappaport and Kaplan.
Envisioning his children's life on the Island has influenced his forward-looking perspective as a planner, Mr. Peak said. "Having children gives one a much greater interest in the future."