Nantucket appoints Robert Ranney to fill father’s seat on SSA

Nantucket Steamship Authority member H. Flint Ranney (left) and Barnstable member Robert L. O'Brien at a 2007 boatline meeting. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Nantucket selectmen have appointed Island real estate broker Robert Ranney that island’s member of the Steamship Authority. Mr. Ranney will take the seat held for the last eight years by his father, H. Flint Ranney, who died Friday, December 21, at his home on Nantucket. He was 77.

Flint Ranney was the owner of Denby Real Estate and a fixture of the Nantucket community where he served on a variety of boards and organizations. His son’s appointment to replace him was made on December 19.

Mr. Ranney’s appointment to the SSA in 2004, following the death of Grace Grossman, marked a sea change in boatline governance and the members’ working relationship with management. Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Ranney restricted his efforts to influence SSA management and policy to member meetings.

He set a new tone in the important relationship between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, shaky at best following hard-fought battles over New Bedford service and management policy.

One outgrowth of those legislative battles was a change in the authority’s enabling legislation to provide a 35 percent vote for each island SSA member and 10 percent each for New Bedford, Falmouth, and Barnstable. Together, the island members control 70 percent.

Mr. Ranney joined Marc Hanover, Vineyard SSA member on the board. By their own accounts, the two men worked well together.

A trim, distinguished-looking man with a dry wit, Mr. Ranney sported a bow tie and often dressed in Nantucket’s signature brick-red pants.

In an early interview with The Times, Mr. Ranney said he decided to serve on the SSA because he saw an opportunity to change the “authority culture” and make the boatline a great organization with the focus on customer service.

In the December meeting’s management synopsis, Wayne Lamson, SSA manager, announced Mr. Ranney’s retirement. He said, “Everyone at the SSA owes a tremendous amount to Mr. Ranney. When he became the SSA’s Nantucket member in 2004, the SSA’s relationship with Nantucket residents was frayed and, some thought, beyond repair. But Mr. Ranney immediately reached out with both substantive and symbolic gestures to make the bond among the SSA, Nantucket and the SSA’s other port communities stronger than ever. Everyone at the SSA will be forever grateful for his patience, his good humor, his wisdom, and the polite but persistent manner in which he consistently has sought to improve the SSA’s service for Nantucket residents and visitors alike.”

“I’m here to continue my father’s legacy on the board and keep the era of smooth sailing going that he’s brought to the board over these last eight years,” Robert Ranney told the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror following his appointment.