Edgartown selectmen candidates speak to the issues

Incumbent Arthur Smadbeck and challenger Gail Gardner give their take on town topics with The Times.

The Edgartown selectmen candidates include, incumbent Arthur Smadbeck, top, and newcomer Gail Gardner. – Photos by Gabrielle Mannino

The race for a three-year term on the Edgartown board of selectmen pits longtime incumbent Art Smadbeck against newcomer Gail Gardner.

Smadbeck has served on the board for 24 years. He has been a partner in Edgartown-based real estate firm Priestly, Smadbeck and Mone for the past 28 years.

Gardner is a lifelong Edgartown resident who has taught technology at the Edgartown School for the past 10 years. Full disclosure: She writes the Edgartown town column for The Times.

What do you see as Edgartown’s biggest challenges in the next three years? Please cite specifics.

Gardner: Housing is a big issue in our town and Island-wide. Our aging population is growing, and the middle class is leaving the Island more and more because of the cost of living. We also have to look at how much money is going into education. I think the Edgartown School has benefitted from our taxbase. We already have bigger classes coming in. We usually have two classes per grade level, but every year we seem to have one grade that’s three classes, due to the number of students or their needs.

I don’t think people are well informed about the budget and the needs of the school.

Smadbeck: The challenges that I want to work on are issues surrounding the burgeoning elder population. We’re going to need more people who will be able to take care of them. We have finally found a home for the Center for Living, which is a step in the right direction. We’re going to have to be looking at nursing homes, especially with the hospital closing one segment of Windemere. We’re also going to need to get more [certified nursing assistants].

There’s also the problem of affordable housing, which we’ve been working on for a long time. We’re going to be building another affordable housing subdivision over on Meshacket Road; right now we’re looking at 31 units.

There’s been a lot of affordable housing units done around town privately. We also had the lottery for affordable lots. The housing bank for Nantucket is quietly working its way up in Boston. If Nantucket gets it done, I think we can piggyback on that. It would work the same as the Land Bank; I think one-half percent [surcharge] is being discussed. We also have our own zoning issues to deal with, to allow for increased density. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission will be invaluable in this process. If we don’t create housing for teachers, police officers, and people to take care of our elderly, we’ll be in trouble.

What do you think are some of the most important traits for the next town administrator?

Gardner: Definitely experience, perhaps a degree in accounting and certification in those areas. Definitely experience running a town. A person who makes transparency and accountability a top priority.

Smadbeck: We’re going to need somebody that has a very good handle on administration, municipal finance, and who understands the workings of the town and the workings of all the departments. We might not get somebody out of the chute who can cover all those bases. One of the advantages we had when Pam Dolby came on board was she’d worked in almost every department in the town. Peter Bettencourt, who was the longtime town administrator, was on contract for a number of months to advise her on things like budgeting. We’re going to hopefully put Pam on the same kind of retainer to help transition whoever we hire.

How will you vote on the town ballot on the fluoridation question? Why?

Gardner: I’m against fluoride in the water system. I think the money could be better spent finding other ways to get fluoride to the people who want it instead of seeing it go to things like watering lawns, where the money literally goes down the drain. Ultimately, I think the people that don’t want it shouldn’t have to have it.

Smadbeck: I do not support the idea of wholesale fluoridating the water for the simple reason it doesn’t give the people that don’t want it any choice. I would think a much better approach would be to have a program to supply fluoride pills to any family that wants it, that way you’re not forcing it on people. I’m a big believer in giving people choice.

Would you be open to moving selectmen’s meetings to a later time so more people could attend?

Gardner: I think that’s an excellent idea. I’m all about the selectmen being accessible.

Smadbeck: I’d be open to that.