Close elections return West Tisbury incumbents
In West Tisbury, for the first time in several years, the annual town elections included four hotly contested elections. In the past year, controversy had sparked angry debate and political passions.
The finance committee (FinCom) has been for some years at odds with the Up-Island Regional School District over the cost of the Chilmark School. Estimating errors marred the town hall renovation project, which was finally abandoned after costing the town a quarter of a million dollars.
William Graham's suit before the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board has cost the town $200,000 to defend and remains unresolved. Although this year's town budget was up only slightly, the previous three years saw double-digit increases every year.
Selectman Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter and assessor Michael Colaneri found themselves under fire from several quarters, but in the end voters chose to re-elect them, though by close margins.
Long-serving assessor Michael Colaneri (300 votes) won a close race for reelection against Jonathan Revere (290) and selectman Glenn Hearn (145). "It goes without saying that I want to thank everyone who supported me," he said this week.
Asked if winning a race in which he received only 41 percent of the vote would have an effect on his actions in the future, Mr. Colaneri replied, "There's no doubt that the board [of assessors] is changing. We've heard the concerns, and we'll do our best to respond to them, and to represent all the people in town."
One of the responses is a series of public forums to improve communication with the voters and taxpayers about the methods of the assessors. "We're looking forward to the forums to educate the public about our work," Mr. Colaneri said. The first meeting, outlined by newly appointed interim assessor Cynthia Mitchell, will take place in early May. Ms. Mitchell will run against Cynthia Riggs for the rest of a one-year term in a special election on May 18.
Skipper Manter garnered 53 percent of the votes and defeated challenger James Alley, 395 to 342. Mr. Manter told The Times that he is pleased and thankful for the support voters have given him. He said that although there were issues raised by the campaign, "People still want me to serve. The majority are happy with my leadership, and I'll continue in that direction to the best of my ability."
There were no incumbents in two races for the FinCom. Peter Costas chose not to stand for reelection, and James Powell resigned with two years remaining in his term.
Richard Knabel (388 votes) decisively won a three-year term, poling 60 percent of the votes, more than Dan Pace (141) and Jonathan Klaren (113) combined. "I'm heartened by the numbers," he told The Times, "and I'll absolutely try my best to do what I said I'd do if elected.... We [the FinCom] have quite a chore ahead of us to rein in spending on a more permanent basis."
Mr. Knabel does not promise to cut budgets or hold them to zero growth, but he says that he hopes to provide "predictability" in the tax rate. Disenchanted with a piecemeal approach to town space problems, he applauds the new town-wide approach approved at last week's annual meeting. "It's a very good sign," he said. Mr. Knabel hopes that there will be new faces and a new vision on the new committee.
Brian Athearn defeated Brian Abbott, 382-285, in the contest for a two-year seat on the FinCom created by the resignation of James Powell. Mr. Powell was at the town meeting last week, handing out flyers promoting his run for state representative in the fall.
Other vote totals
In uncontested races: Timothy Barnett (595) was elected to the board of health; Patrick Gregory (641) moderator; Katherine Logue (629) treasurer; Brent Taylor (650) tax collector; Prudence Whiting (674) town clerk; Jeremiah Brown (592) tree warden; Timothy Barnett (586) constable; Leslie Baker (513) and Elaine Pace (417) library trustees; Murray Frank (568) planning board; and Richard Reinhardsen (521) and Douglas Bardwell (483) Park and Recreation committee.
A total of 760 voters, or 37 percent of the town's 2,054 voters, cast ballots.