Five vie for selectman's seat in Tisbury
Five candidates, none of them an incumbent, will compete for one Tisbury selectman's seat on Tuesday April 18, from noon to 8 pm, at the polls at the American Legion Hall. The five offer voters a political potpourri.
When Tisbury selectman Raymond LaPorte announced earlier this year he would not run again, one woman and four men jumped into the race, all new to the job, if elected.
George Balco has continued his business career in financial analysis and investments by working as an independent consultant. He also is the vice president and treasurer of Mink Meadows Golf Club. Mr. Balco has served on Tisbury's finance and advisory committee (FinCom) for 10 years, including eight as its chairman. He also served as a member of Tisbury's town cabinet and on the sewer review board, and headed up or was a member of the Tisbury union negotiations team over three contract periods. In addition, Mr. Balco was an airport commissioner for three years.
Jared Meader. MV Times File Photo
Jamie Douglas is the director of retail operations for The Black Dog, his family's business. He oversees 15 stores, including those on the Island towns and others in Chatham, Provincetown, Falmouth, and Newport, R.I. Recently, Mr. Douglas has been working on Nantucket where a new Black Dog store soon will open. He currently serves on Tisbury's planning board, the emergency services facility committee, the sewage flow review board, and the revenue enhancement committee.
Nancy Hall's background includes five years working in a design firm specializing in large estates in central London, which she said inspired her interest in town planning. While working as a homemaker and a mother to three children, she was involved in fundraising for charities. After buying a home in Tisbury in the 1980s and then moving to the Island 10 years ago, she has served on the Library board of trustees, the Tisbury historical commission, and the Main Street committee. Recently, Ms. Hall volunteered and was appointed by the selectmen to Tisbury's beer and wine review committee.
Jared Meader has worked as a corrections officer with the Dukes County Sheriff's Department for five years. After graduating from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in 1993, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps until 1999, and then joined the Massachusetts National Guard. In March 2003, Mr. Meader was called up to serve in Iraq, where he spent 14 months as a sergeant in the 101st Quartermaster Battalion. The busy father of a five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son, Mr. Meader is looking forward to the birth of his third child in August. He is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and the Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club.
Denys Wortman grew up in Tisbury and graduated from Tisbury High School. After college he worked in the investment brokerage business in Boston for 40 years. In 1996, he and his wife moved to the Vineyard, after repurchasing his childhood home on Hines Point. Mr. Wortman is the president of Martha's Vineyard Community Television (MVTV), which he and a small group of its board members started four years ago. He serves on the boards of Featherstone Center for the Arts and Tisbury Waterways Inc. Since his return to the Vineyard, Mr. Wortman served on Tisbury's FinCom five years, the revenue enhancement board two years, the capital programs board one year, and the Spring Building preservation committee one year.
The Times recently asked each of the candidates to respond in writing to several questions, which follow, along with the candidates' answers:
Nancy Hall. Photo by Janet Hefler
1. Why did you decide to run?
George Balco: I feel that my wide knowledge of town government and town finance will benefit the town.
Jamie Douglas: I really want to help the town by using my enthusiastic leadership qualities and energy. As a concerned member of many town boards (see above) and of the town's business community, I would like to help see that the town government is run in a more businesslike, professional manner. I would implement a more businesslike approach to town governance. My business approach to management is transferable to municipal government. I want to see the town develop a marketing strategy, one that would include promoting the town's historic qualities. I am a proponent of the planning board's concept of a "harborpath way."
Nancy Hall: One of the reasons I am running for selectman is because I think it is time for a woman's voice to be heard. Studies have shown that better decisions are made when men and women make them together. Also, the open meeting laws and ethical considerations should be ever present in our dealings. There needs to be better communication between the different town boards and committees so that the business of the town runs as smoothly as possible. There needs to be "follow-up" to decisions made.
Jared Meader: After spending a year in Iraq, I was very out of touch with Island politics. Once home, I began watching the town meetings on MVTV. It was then that I decided I needed to take a more proactive role in the Island community. After watching people dying for the right to vote, it made me realize how much we take democracy for granted.
Denys Wortman: I truly feel that I can make a difference in the town of Tisbury. I have a positive attitude, welcome the challenge, am anxious to dig in, and I hope the voters give me the chance.
Jamie Douglas. Photo by Janet Hefler
2. What skills would you bring to the office of selectman?
Mr. Balco: With 10 years of dealing with all town departments as well as involvement in union negotiations, I bring to the office a strong background as well as a high level of financial knowledge. I think that these skills can be very helpful to town government.
Mr. Douglas: My management skills include knowing when to delegate and hold people accountable. I would more effectively use the position of town administrator to work effectively for the board of selectman and other town boards. Quick turnover of personnel including the former town administrator Dennis Luttrell and police Chief Ted Saulnier are results of ineffective leadership and management, which in turn cost the town money.
Ms. Hall: I will bring an open mind, common sense, careful fiscal planning, and design experience to the board. I do not want to see public buildings built with our money ending up like the police station which everyone now knows has not worked - aesthetically or practically. We are starting an era of improvement to the downtown/harbor area and it is important to co-ordinate all aspects of that - sidewalks, landscaping, parking, lighting and traffic flow. I have design experience and want to make sure that all these elements become a unified whole. Then, Tisbury will become again the town where people will want to stay to shop, to eat, to walk about, to sit on a bench, to go to the movies and the theatre.
Mr. Meader: I would bring what I believe this town is lacking, and that is strong leadership and a fresh, young, and new point of view. I have a tendency to look at the long term and not the short term. I am a good listener and will listen to both sides of an argument before I take a side or stand on a specific issue. I feel that I am very approachable and easy to talk to by people of all ages and races.
Mr. Wortman: I am a creative person, a very good listener and have excellent management skills. I have always had the ability to bring people together and build a consensus. My years in finance will help me make fiscally responsible decisions.
Denys Wortman. MV Times File Photo
3. What are your ideas for ways to improve town government?
Mr. Balco: We in Tisbury are fortunate to have a dedicated hard-working group of town employees at all levels and all departments. What I want to do is maintain this great group of people and work to make things even better. One idea, which I would introduce, is to set up periodic meetings of all department heads. This might be a luncheon and each department head would have to talk for five minutes about their activities. No selectmen present. I think this cross-knowledge would allow each manger to know better what is going on and foster interdepartmental cooperation.
I intend to work to support the health of the business community especially the year-around businesses.
Mr. Douglas: I would insist on a more effective town cabinet meeting. The meetings that I have attended have been mostly poorly attended and ineffective at ensuring proper exchanges of information and ideas between town boards... further resulting in frustration and lack of progress.
I would insist that meetings be run in a more businesslike fashion: following the agenda, with the use of timelines, deliverables, and accountability.
Ms. Hall: (Ms. Hall replied in an essay format, in which she combined her answers to questions 3 and 4 as below.)
George Balco. Photo by Janet Hefler
Mr. Meader: I will open up communication with the businesses within the town, and try to find solutions to bring Main Street back to the year-round town that it used to be. I will work well with all of the departments within the town, i.e., police, public works, and water, to try to get them the support they need to be successful.
Mr. Wortman: We have a great town but government could be improved by better communication between departments, better communication between the town and businesses and better communication between the town and residents. We need to get more people involved in the creative process of making Tisbury even better. I would look forward to working with the planning board on implementing their master plan.
4. What ideas do you have for easing the upward pressure on property taxes?
Mr. Balco: Continue to operate a lean, but effective town government and avoid funding any new activities. Give support to the ideas coming from the revenue-enhancement committee in finding new sources of local revenues.
Mr. Douglas: The town's leaders must be more cost-conscious when it comes to spending taxpayer monies. This will come from long-range financial planning and from holding department heads accountable to these efforts. The selectmen, in conjunction with the planning board and FinCom, must develop a plan for what to do with current town properties and incorporate these plans into the long-range plan. With each expenditure must come an associated cut in another expenditure...simple balancing of the budget and a conservative fiscal policy will lessen the pressure on taxes. The budget must be reviewed line by line...savings can be realized. Innovative ideas must be brought forward to further enhance town revenues without simply raising taxes.
Ms. Hall: I don't think the "upward pressure" on property taxes will change much because of our unique sort of Island town - limited space along with great demand for same. However, we can be careful to keep to our budget and we can invest in our downtown/harbor area so that people will stay to spend their money in Tisbury. To that end we should keep some of our public buildings and services spread throughout the area so that residents will also use the town year-round. It might be wise to keep a small police presence near the SSA/port area, and we have to find more parking space. The planning board should be congratulated for its hard work in coming up with its latest plan for the harbor - which is a beginning to this process of improvement.
Mr. Meader: By using the SSA embarkation tax more effectively and wisely so that taxpayers don't have to fund projects that the embarkation tax can fund.
Mr. Wortman: Being on Tisbury's finance and advisory board for the past five years, we have worked hard to hold down taxes. All departments were asked to hold increases to 3.5 percent. All department heads need to evaluate their own department and be creative to see where savings can be made. This is very difficult as most increases are incurred by salary and insurance increases.
5. Do you support allowing restaurants to sell beer and wine?
Mr. Balco: I support the introduction of beer and wine in town restaurants and believe it is consistent with the historic merchant character of Tisbury. The specifics must be worked out in detail.
Mr. Douglas: I am in support of allowing restaurants to sell wine and beer. This will effectively work to help put Vineyard Haven businesses on a more level playing field with Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. Also, this will have an incremental trickle down effect on other town businesses such as the movie theatre and other merchants. Many tax dollars and jobs have been lost and it is time to do all we can to encourage businesses to relocate or stay in Tisbury. This extra traffic will have the effect of encouraging business people and the town to begin to see the value in beautifying the town. The character of the town may then be bolstered with increased pedestrian access and a better atmosphere.
Ms. Hall: The beer and wine committee is still meeting weekly. I joined it in order to learn as much as possible. What I have learned so far is that it will benefit five restaurants (to which the town can give year-round licenses) and a few seasonal ones. But also there is a real limit here because of sewage capacity. The town will make money from fees and taxes but it will cost us something in services - the DPW will have more trash to collect and dispose of, the police will have to add more hours to their schedule and the public safety could be compromised because more people will drink and drive. All this is to say that I am still keeping an open mind until all our studies are in.
In the end, I love the town of Tisbury and feel that it is a privilege to be able to live here. I want to work for its improvement and help in the best way that I am able - as a selectman.
Mr. Meader: I do support the restaurants selling beer and wine. I feel that it would bring more and more people to the town to eat at our fine restaurants. Beer and wine is not going to make the town government much money, it is not going to ease our taxes, but it will help our town restaurants, and that is who we need to support. By allowing beer and wine into the restaurants, people will come to enjoy themselves and therefore will create a domino effect, which will allow other businesses to stay open later.
Mr. Wortman: The selectmen will not make this decision. This decision will be made by the voters of Tisbury, and I will support that vote. As a selectman, I would encourage open meetings to discuss the pros and cons of this important decision.