The race for Tisbury assessor pits a former member of the board against a current member, a rare race for a seat that’s typically out of the public spotlight.
Incumbent Angela Cywinski, who is also the paid assessor in Aquinnah, faces a challenge by David Dandridge in the Tuesday, April 23, town election.
Dandridge, a retired Steamship Authority employee, said it’s fair to say that his attempt to return to the board is prompted by the controversy surrounding the audit of Tisbury nonprofits, which resulted in Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and others having their tax-exempt status revoked.
“I was pretty upset when I heard about this change of position of the auditing of the status of nonprofits,” Dandridge, who served for 18 years, said.
Cywinski said she understands that’s why he’s running, but she said emotion can’t enter into decisions on how a property will be taxed. “He is probably more passionate. That’s the difference between David and I. I just follow the letter of the law,” she said. “As an assessor, I can’t have a personal judgment … You can’t let your personal feelings and emotions guide your assessments. Is it fun doing that? No, but it’s fair.”
Ultimately, Cywinski and the board overturned their decision in the Playhouse case.
Dandridge said he understands the laws governing assessments and that the position requires training, but he believes the board is also overstepping its bounds in other ways. “There’s nothing that I know of in the law that instructs the local assessors to raise revenue,” he said. “They’re supposed to list and value property, and that’s it. In many ways, it should be; impartiality is very important. There’s some misunderstanding about what assessors are supposed to do.”
Cywinski disagrees. Her position on assessors being involved in revenue is something that’s resulted in her tumultuous relationship with the board of selectmen in Aquinnah. “That is our job. We’re responsible for town’s revenue for the selectmen and town to spend,” she said, noting her certification with the Massachusetts Assessors Association. “We make sure everyone pays a fair portion — no more, no less — of tax liability.”