Fluoride loses, Smadbeck returned to office

Deb Mello Orazem, a retired Edgartown School teacher, advocaties for article 6 outside the polls in Edgartown. Mello Orazem is married to a dentist, and said, "You have to look at all the research at trust the experts." — Gabrielle Mannino

Updated April 13 at 8 pm

Voters overwhelmingly defeated an initiative to add fluoride to the town’s water, a rebuff to a controversial order issued by the board of health.

In a vote of 700 to 253, with 16 blanks, the fluoride initiative lost, despite the strong backing of dental and health professionals on the Island.

The town’s board of health voted to add fluoride, prompting a controversy over the decision and the process used to issue that order. The town’s water commission opposed the move. Ultimately, a petition was circulated to bring the fluoride issue to a townwide vote culminating in Thursday’s no vote.

Garrett Orazem, Vineyard Haven dentist and member of the Edgartown board of health, said he was disappointed with the outcome.

“I think Edgartown missed the opportunity to improve dental health for the entire town, regardless of people’s ability to arrange for their own dental care,” he said. “I think we did a good job of getting out the information on the safety and effectiveness of fluoridation.”

But there was criticism of how the board of health went about instituting the order from the town’s water commissioners.

“Some people seemed to think this was foisted on them, but according to state law, it is the board of health of the town that votes on fluoridation,” Orazem said. “It’s much more effective to deal with dental issues preventatively. I’m told that the waiting list for the dental clinic at the hospital is two years.”

Of the town’s 3,627 registered voters, 969, or 26 percent, went to the polls.

In a contested race for selectmen, incumbent Arthur Smadbeck was returned to office over challenger Gail Gardner. That race was much closer, with Smadbeck getting 500 votes to Gardner’s 444.

Smadbeck, the board’s chairman for the past year, has 24 years of experience. “I’m grateful that I have enough support in town to continue as a selectman,” Smadbeck said. “I’m very appreciative.”

Gardner, an Edgartown school teacher, was an outspoken critic of the process used to pick a new police chief. She writes the Edgartown column for The Times.

“I’m happy. I’m fine. I’m great. I would have prefered to win, but we ran a great campaign,” Gardner said. “It’s really hard to defeat an incumbent.”

Gardner said she’ll look to stay in politics by volunteering for a town committee, and didn’t rule out a future run for office. “I have great interest in it,” she said.


There were five other questions on the Edgartown ballot as well, all having to do with money.

  • Question 1: Voters approved $400,000 for resurfacing town streets by a vote of 619-246.
  • Question 2: Voters approved $350,000 for sidewalks, bike paths, and drainage by a vote of 733-205.
  • Question 3: Voters approved $225,000 for a street sweeper by a vote of 562-356.
  • Question 4: In the closest vote, voters rejected $1.2 million for Katama Airfield hangar by a vote of 469-466.
  • Question 5: The $3.7 million for various wastewater projects was approved 588-322.


In other contested races, Paulo DeOliveira (670), Robert Coad (717), and Morton Fearey Jr. (498) defeated Jane Chittick (364) for the financial advisory committee. Scott Morgan (600) was elected over Robert Strayton (164) for planning board. And a water commission race was decided in favor of James Kelleher (593) over Fred Domont (231).

In uncontested races, Chris Scott was returned to the board of assessors; E. Garrett Orazem was returned to the board of health; Scott Ellis was elected constable; James Carter was elected to the financial advisory committee; Herbert Foster and Julie Lively were elected library trustees; Sean Murphy is the new town moderator, Kevin Searle was elected park commissioner; Megan Anderson was elected to the school committee, Melissa Kuehne was elected town collector; and Murphy was elected to the wastewater committee.


  1. The state legislature just passed a new excise tax on short term rentals on the Cape & Islands earmarked specifically for wastewater treatment on the Cape & Islands. I know there has been some comment from various town officials on the Island that the tax will not be divided fairly between the Cape & Islands and that the tax would primarily benefit the Cape, but I wonder, in light of the new tax, whether a $3.7M wastewater budget allocation was really necessary, or even prudent? I was happy to see the Hanger bill defeated. Ultimately the Katama Airport benefits such a very small percentage of the residents of the town, that allocating taxpayer money to that project once again seems imprudent. The cost of maintaining and running the airpark should come from those who use the airpark. It seems unclear to me why it should be less costly to park an airplane at the airport than it is to rent a transient town mooring in the harbor? I would support raising the fees at the airport for the very small percentage of people that use it to be at least in line with the fees charged to rent a mooring in the harbor. And like the harbor launch service, perhaps a contracted service to operate the airport makes more sense. Offer a long term contract to a company skilled in running an airport with the agreement that the winning bidder remove and build a new hanger, provide maintenance and fueling services and make the airport a money-making enterprise, not a drain on tax payers that neither use, nor benefit from its existence. I will say I find it hypocritical to allocate $700,000 to “electronics upgrades” (it’s unclear what that actually means, but I will assume town data systems, PC’s, printers, copiers and the like), make statements about the critical need for a cell tower in the midst of a neighborhood “for emergency communications” then refuse to spend $93,000 to fund the emergency communications center that would actually coordinate the response to any emergency? On whose “soul” is that failure?

  2. It’s quite obvious you are clueless about airport operations. Be thankful Steve and Dorothy Gentle sold the airport in its present state, (deeded to REMAIN in its present state or…) Had they chosen to develop it to its potential within the zoning in place at that time, there would have been HUNDREDS of homes, polluting the aquifer with their septic systems, clogging roads with traffic, and making demands on town services. Thanks to the long time practice of doing ‘controlled burns’, it became a home for rare species of flora and fauna. THere is no other sand plain like it.The runways and airport operations use a very small portion of the acreage.
    That airport is VFR (visual flight rules). So if its not a sunny day with more than 3 miles of visibility and 1000 foot cloud ceiling, the airport is closed. Maybe you should take a ride out of town some day and you will see the typical fog conditions that close the airport on a regular basis. As such, it would be impossible for anyone to run a profit making operation there. Airport operators make money selling fuel. Little airplanes that go to Katama probably buy less gas than a Chevy suburban. And, its quite simple. Try and gouge airplane people and they go elsewhere. They aren’t a ‘captive audience’. So since its not a reliable place to operate, most of the people who live here or have summer homes choose to use the main airport with instrument landing systems in place, that allow them to land in ‘instrument’ weather. Or at night which allows reliable transportation. (fortunately due to Federal Government grant assurances, the main airport can’t ‘gouge’ pilots the way most island businesses do). So before you go on a rant about the airport ‘benefiting’ a few, do your homework.

  3. I appreciate and admire Gail Gardner for her attempt to unseat a longtime selectman. She clearly cares about our Edgartown. Good luck to Gail in the future. We need more people like her to get involved and not take town government for granted.

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