Updated Dec. 17
By boat, by bus, by car, by boat again, and finally by foot, Keith Chatinover — the 18-year-old, newly elected member of the Dukes County Commission — crossed land and sea to make the journey from Martha’s Vineyard to Cuttyhunk to hold a town hall for his most secluded constituents.
The town hall on Gosnold is Chatinover’s fourth in a series of town halls at each town in Dukes County. They’re all part of Chatinover’s campaign promises of transparency and accountability.
“They’re part of the county, it’s that simple,” Chatinover said. “They deserve our attention.”
The Times joined Chatinover — who is giving a new meaning to the “youth movement” — for the inter-Island trek to see what it takes to get to the Vineyard’s northwest neighbor. For the commissioner-elect, it takes country radio and a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts.
“My political career in Massachusetts would be over if I was caught in a picture drinking Starbucks,” he joked.
Chatinover is well known for his social activism, volunteerism, and organization of the bus trip from the Vineyard to Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives rally. After graduating from the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School last spring, Chatinover has been keeping busy. He interned for New Jersey Representative-elect Mikie Sherrill in August, has been working with the Tisbury Department of Public Works three days a week, and is picking classes for his first semester at Middlebury College in Vermont come February.
The journey to get to Gosnold from the Vineyard in the winter months is a full-day activity — beginning with a 6 am ferry ride to Woods Hole, a bus ride to the Palmer lot, a car ride to New Bedford, and ending with an hourlong ferry ride to Gosnold. Arriving around 10 am, Chatinover, and the handful of other visitors on the ferry, can’t leave until the 2 pm trip back to New Bedford.
Gosnold in the offseason is what one might expect — empty. Houses are really all that populate the hilly terrain, as they lie empty waiting for the summer season. The Gosnold Town Hall and public library sit next to each other on Tower Road. Directly across from them is the church. The Post Office is a stone’s throw away down the street, and is manned by Jeff Chaves, who comes twice a week in the off-season to get mail to the handful of year-round residents. There is an elementary school — with one teacher and one student.
According to the annual town report, there are 137 registered voters, and come election time they turn out. “In terms of a participating democracy, this is a good example of it,” selectman G. Stewart Young said.
In a small meeting room in the back of town hall, Chatinover spoke to two of the three selectmen, Young and Sarah Berry, at their biweekly meeting. Selectmen Gail Blout was absent.
Chatinover took the floor at the beginning of the meeting, introducing himself and describing the commission’s duties, budget, and services. Four other people attended the meeting, but it was the selectmen who fielded all the questions for Chatinover.
The summit went beyond just a meet and greet when Chatinover said the Dukes County advisory board for expenditures — which approves commission budget proposals and is made up of one selectmen from each Vineyard town — does not have a Gosnold representative, which came as a surprise to the selectmen.
“We have a head selectperson that’s head every year, and that’s me,” Young said. “As far as I know we may be on the board, but we don’t know it.”
The selectmen thanked Chatinover for his time and willingness to travel to attend their meeting.
“I thought it would be worth taking a visit,” he told selectmen. “I ran on transparency and accountability, and I mean it … I’m here.”
After the meeting, Chatinover toured the town on a golf cart offered by Gosnold assistant harbormaster Dale Lynch. After touring the few sites, Chatinover drove up to Cuttyhunk’s peak and waved to the Gay Head Lighthouse, which could be seen flickering in the distance. Chatinover also got a look inside the town hall’s basement, which included a walk-in safe and a jail cell turned storage space, filled with boxes of old files.
“I am their representative too. I am a liaison. If they need something from the county, I want to make my face known, and I want to make it clear that I perceive it as part of the county just as much as any other Island town,” he said.
Chatinover compared the sense of community as akin to the Vineyard, even with such a small number of people. Their issues, whether it is using renewable energy, building a new library, or approving training for a town employee, are a microcosm of what is dealt with on the Vineyard.
“I couldn’t be happier about how I thought it went — excellently. I’ve never been to Cuttyhunk before, so that was an experience in and of itself,” Chatinover said. “I think it’s underappreciated how special the place is, and how lucky we are to have it as part of our county.”
Chatinover’s next town hall is Thursday, Dec. 20, from 6 pm to 7 pm at the Vineyard Haven Public Library.
6 am: First boat of the day to Woods Hole
6:50 am: Shuttle bus to Palmer Avenue lot
7:05 am: Searching for Keith Chatinover’s car, scraping off the windshield’s morning frost, and heading off to New Bedford
7:47am: Quick caffeine stop at Dunkin’ Donuts
8:05 am: Arrival at Cuttyhunk Ferry Co. in New Bedford
9 am: Ferry departs for Cuttyhunk Island
10:05 am: Arrival on Cuttyhunk
10:30 am: Chatinover introduces himself at Gosnold selectmen meeting in town hall and explains what the Dukes County Commission does
12 pm: After selectmen meeting, Chatinover takes a golf cart tour of Cuttyhunk, visiting library, church, docks, Post Office, and jail cell.
2 pm: Return ferry trip New Bedford
3:05 pm: Arrival in New Bedford, car ride back to Palmer Avenue lot
5 pm: Quick stop for lunch before arriving at Woods Hole to return to the Vineyard
5:45pm: Return to Martha’s Vineyard
Updated with more details and photographs from the visit. -Ed.