New MVC executive director Adam Turner makes the rounds

Mr. Turner says he plans to listen first to what Islanders have to say about the Martha's Vineyard Commission to help shape his focus.

Adam Turner, executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Commission, shown here in his office in Oak Bluffs, has been meeting with Island leaders. — Photo by Sam Moore

New MVC executive director Adam Turner makes the rounds

Mr. Turner says he plans to listen first to what Islanders have to say about the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to help shape his focus.

By Janet Hefler

The new Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) executive director, Adam Turner, has been making the rounds of the Island to introduce himself and become familiar with Island leaders and town boards. Mr. Turner arrived in early August, following the retirement of Mark London, executive director since 2002, and made it his first order of business to meet people and hear what they have to say.

“I feel like personally introducing myself really sort of helps people to get to know me, so I have been meeting people and just having that initial discussion, not talking about issues, but mostly just getting to know me and where I come from,” Mr. Turner told The Times in a recent interview in his office.

Formerly the town planner for Colchester, Conn., Mr. Turner was one of four finalists for the MVC executive directorship, chosen from a pool of 33 applicants. A native of Connecticut, he holds a master’s degree in urban planning.

Island experience

Mr. Turner’s professional career spans 30 years, with a concentration on islands and island issues. His previous experience includes extensive coastal management work in environments that include the Florida Keys and Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the U.S.

As the senior policy advisor the Northern Mariana Islands governor’s office from 2001 to 2006, Mr. Turner worked on Saipan, one of the commonwealth’s three islands. He said his experience there translates well to life on Martha’s Vineyard, which he visited many times over the years since his college days.

“I could work in Colchester or some other place, and I could make a decision, and maybe I’d see that person or maybe I wouldn’t,” he said. “But in Saipan, because the island is so small, I knew I’d see that person at the post office next day and be asked, What are you doing?” Mr. Turner said with a laugh.

“But I think that’s good,” he added. “Because it really forces me to look at all sides of the issue and realize that even if we disagree, that it’s not personal, and that I really am going to have to face all of the people I make decisions about.”

Listen and learn

When asked what he has heard about the commission over the past month, Mr. Turner said Islanders have made him aware that towns and the various applicants all have an important role in the MVC process, which must respect everyone involved.

“What I’ve tried to do, and I’ve only been here 10 minutes,” he said with a smile, “is just to listen. Because I think that people get unhappy when they feel that they weren’t listened to.

“That doesn’t mean that the decision that is made is going to give them everything they want,” Mr. Turner added. “But as the director I can guarantee them that they’ll be listened to, and that their issues will get a full hearing before the commission.”

Mr. Turner said there has not been any one particular aspect of the MVC’s role that keeps coming up in the conversations.

“I would say that for me, the challenge of the job, and I think it’s the challenge of the Island, is that we have to look at housing; we have to look at cleaning up the environment; we have to look at making sure that all of our roads and infrastructure work well,” he said.

Finding a focus

Since he has only been on the job for a short time, Mr. Turner said he can’t offer specifics yet on what his initial focus as director will be. He has, however, narrowed it down to three general areas, which include housing, water quality, and involvement with town boards.

“I went to the All-Island Planning Board meeting about housing, and they really felt that was something Island-wide that needs to be focused upon and action needs to be taken,” Mr. Turner said. “I’m also looking at the various efforts involved to do more in water quality work, including a lot more testing and regular evaluation so people will know in real time what’s going on.”

In regard to town boards, Mr. Turner said he intends to sit in on a lot of meetings to gain an understanding and show respect for them.

“The MVC has a responsibility, and I think that can best be met by working in tandem with all of the towns and all of their boards,” Mr. Turner said. “I’ve been to a lot of them, but I’ve still got a lot to go, because there are six of them, but I think that’s important.”

He also recognizes that it’s not just a matter of showing up.

“I’m going to have to earn the respect of both my commission here and other entities around the Island,” Mr. Turner said. “And the only way I’m going to do that is by working with these people and them understanding what I’m about.”

When asked what the MVC should be doing, aside from its permitting role, Mr. Turner pointed out that although developments of regional impact receive the most attention, the commission is actively involved in GIS mapping, coastal planning, and other planning issues concerning transportation, affordable housing, and water quality.

Mr. Turner said he loves his new job, as he knew he would.

“To be asked to work here is a privilege,” he added. “I’m lucky, and I know how lucky I am. That’s why I’m going to work so hard to really get these things done.”

He and his wife Rocy live in Oak Bluffs, with their two daughters, Alexandra, age 8, and Hydee, age 6, who attend Oak Bluffs School.

Under a two-year contract effective August 1, Mr. Turner will earn a salary of $107,454 per year with benefits.