Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur announces retirement

Selectman Melinda Loberg said the retirement of the longtime harbormaster provides an opportunity to evaluate the scope of the job.

In this 2011 file photo, Jay Wilbur is at the helm of the new patrol boat.

Updated 11 am, Tuesday

After 24 years overseeing Tisbury waters, Harbormaster John “Jay” Wilbur, 64, will retire prior to the start of the busy summer boating season. Mr. Wilbur announced his retirement, effective June 30, in a one-sentence letter dated Friday, April 1, addressed to town administrator Jay Grande.

“I, John M. Wilbur (3rd), Harbormaster, will be retiring on June 30, 2016,” was the sum of it.

Friday afternoon, selectman Melinda Loberg told The Times that although the announcement was a bit of an early surprise, it provides a good opportunity for the town to consider its options.

“It’s a little sooner than we expected him to retire, and we’re faced with the season coming on us pretty fast,” she said. “However, I think that whenever there is a long-term person leaving their position, it gives the town an opportunity to evaluate the job description and the needs of the town — how they might have changed and evolved, et cetera.”

Ms. Loberg said that instead of rushing to fill the position right away, she hopes town officials will take the time necessary to evaluate the role of harbormaster in the town. She said the board of selectmen has been “kicking around the idea” of creating something like a natural resources department that would encompass the harbormaster’s job, which largely revolves around town waterway and mooring projects and oversight.

“Given the job of the harbormaster to really guide things like dredging projects, and to really work closely with other departments like the shellfish department and the conservation agent and others, we see that maybe a skill set to really understand the biology and the natural resource considerations would be an interesting direction to explore,” she said.

Proposed amendments to the town’s compensation and classification plan already include a natural resources officer.

“Although we haven’t necessarily gone in that direction, and we’re not asking the town to approve the hiring of someone like that, this makes it possible for us to consider that role,” Ms. Loberg said.

Meanwhile, she said that the town will have discussions with Mr. Wilbur, administrative assistant harbormaster John Crocker, and returning personnel who are familiar with the job to come up with the next step prior to the summer season.

“We’re lucky that we have a group of them that are returning and that we can depend on, but we do need someone who looks at the big picture and provides the oversight,” Ms. Loberg said. “We’ll either have to find someone to do that on an interim basis, or really hurry up our process.”

Ms. Loberg said she is in favor of hiring an interim harbormaster for the upcoming summer season. Ultimately, however, she is not worried about filling the role.

“There’s a lot of interest and there’s a lot of talent around the Island,” she said. “People have that skill set, so I am not worried.”

Costa Rica calls

On Monday, Mr. Wilbur told The Times that after 24 years, he felt like it was the right time to retire. He said he has a home in Costa Rica that has been under development for some time.

“I knew that someday I would start to spend time there, mostly in retirement,” he said. “Once it became finished and real, it became obvious to me, Why wait?”

Mr. Wilbur said he’s also been given the opportunity to skipper a sports fishing boat, which includes running and maintaining the vessel. Accumulated vacation time and personal days also played into the June 30th date, Mr. Wilbur said. 

“With the time I have accumulated and such, it just seemed like the right date,” he said, adding that an official date hasn’t been determined, but that his last work day will be “fairly soon.”

“I wanted to give them notice so they could get something else in place for the season,” he said. “And I’ll be totally out of the way by then.”

Mr. Wilbur said he has enjoyed his 24 years as town harbormaster.

“I’ve loved the job,” he said. “It’s been an opportunity, and I’m very grateful for having been here all this time.”