Updated Jan. 22, 4 pm
Marc Hanover, the Vineyard’s longtime representative on the Steamship Authority board, is not seeking reappointment.
Hanover, an Oak Bluffs restaurateur who briefly assumed the 2020 chairmanship of the board, will abdicate the position after 15 years of service, and another two years prior on the port council. Deeply versed in the complexities of the SSA, he pushed for an independent consultant to evaluate the ferry line in the wake of more than 500 ferry breakdowns and cancellations in 2018. The HMS report, a comprehensive analysis of the SSA unveiled in December 2018, was the result of that push. A quest by the SSA to fulfill recommendations made in the report remains underway, with several major items already acted on. The report and its fruits may stand as Hanover’s legacy.
“I just decided this was the right time,” Hanover said Wednesday afternoon. “The real issue is I wouldn’t be able to put in the time it requires.” Hanover also said he would like to devote more time to his business and his family, notably his granddaughter.
His departure comes at a time of deep unrest on the Vineyard for the Island’s “lifeline.” Breakdowns and missed crossings continue to plague the fleet, and on Tuesday, the SSA’s website crashed as the Vineyard’s seasonal reservations went live. It also comes as the Dukes County Commission was openly soliciting applicants, as Hanover’s term was about to expire.
“I’ve got one more meeting,” he said. “My time is up at the end of February.”
Hanover said he would certainly help the next appointee transition into the role. When he joined the board, he had the guidance of Riggs Parker and Ron Rappaport, who “couldn’t have been more accommodating.”
Hanover stressed his affinity for the SSA would remain even as he departs. “I care about the Steamship Authority very much,” he said.
It wasn’t easy to motivate the SSA to seek a consultant, he noted, but it was worth it. “I got a lot of pushback,” he said. “[But] I think it’s really been beneficial.” He added, “Very strong people have come in.”
Hanover began his time on the board with Wayne Lamson as general manager, and will end under the leadership of Robert Davis, who was treasurer and comptroller under Lamson. “I wish them all well,” he said of the SSA staff, whom he described as “very dedicated.” “I will miss the camaraderie of the board,” he said.
In an email to the Dukes County Commissioners sent Wednesday morning, Hanover gave notice: “I have decided not to seek reappointment to the Steamship Authority board,” he wrote. “I have other commitments that are going to require more of my time, and I feel that I would not have the time needed to represent you and the Island well. I thank you for your many years of support, and feel that the Steamship Authority is now in a much better position to be successful in the future. It has been a privilege to serve you and the Island of Martha’s Vineyard.”
Davis issued a brief statement Wednesday afternoon in light of Hanover’s exodus. “On behalf of the entire Steamship Authority, I want to thank Marc for his years of service on the board,” he wrote. “His hard work and contributions undoubtedly made us a stronger organization, and his presence will be missed. I look forward to welcoming a new representative for Dukes County to the board.”
Brian Packish, chairman of the Oak Bluffs selectmen, said it was disappointing to hear Hanover would not continue. “Marc has worked tirelessly in a thankless job,” Packish said. “If Marc’s not going to continue, I certainly think that Malkin is more than capable.”
Jim Malkin, a Chilmark selectman, has indeed offered to volunteer for the position, and is currently one of four candidates.
The Dukes County commissioners choose who represents the Vineyard on the SSA board. At their Jan. 15 meeting, the commissioners announced they would schedule interviews for both the Airport Commission and the Steamship Authority. Carroll’s truck driver Michael Lyons, Malkin, UPS supervisor Angela Cywinski, and marketing executive Allen Carney have submitted résumés for consideration by the commission for the SSA board.
Lyons sees the SSA from a different perspective than most. As a trucker for Carroll’s, he crosses Vineyard Sound daily, and understands ferry freight operations from firsthand experience. He has extensive training in general and heavy mechanics, including diesel engines, generator sets, and hydraulics.
Malkin is a retired national and international business executive with expertise in helping troubled businesses. He’s an experienced Caribbean and New England mariner, and ran a large trucking company. On behalf of employers, he chaired a union negotiations committee, and also led an employer’s arbitration panel.
Cywinski is a former Aquinnah assessor and Tisbury board of assessors member who previously ran a delivery business that used the SSA. She has a solid understanding of municipal finance and banking processes, having been a senior accountant at Bank of New England. She presently works as a supervisor at UPS.
Carney is a seasoned marketing executive with work experience at Kofax and Lotus, among other companies. Carney is versed in national and international marketing strategy and implementation. He is presently the president of PhaseSeven Marketing.
Prior to announcing he would leave the board, Hanover told The Times he was “very involved” in the SSA, and whoever seeks a position on the board ought to be familiar with the ferry line, and should attend board meetings and port council meetings. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” he said. Lyons said he’s not seeking a seat on the board because he necessarily has a problem with Hanover’s performance. “I just figured I’d throw my name in the hat and see what happens,” he said. “Sometimes a new deal is a good thing.”
Malkin had no criticism of Hanover either. “I am not running against Hanover,” he said. For a number of years, he said, folks have asked him to run. “If the commissioners want me, I’m happy to serve,” he said.
In an effort to gauge their positions, The Times asked the four candidates the same four questions.
Should the SSA establish a fast ferry on the Vineyard route?
Malkin said he needed more data. “I don’t know whether the economics would work,” he said. Whatever the vessel, he said, reliability was paramount.
Lyons too wanted more information. “It did seem to work when we had it,” he said. “I’d like to see the numbers.”
“At first blush, I’d say it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Carney said. At present he found cross-Sound service adequately arranged. He noted mechanical problems, whatever the vessel, need to be lessened, and communication in general improved.
Cywinski is in favor of a fast ferry “because it worked very well” in 2018. She described it as “easier” and “more effective” than the status quo, and thought it presented a good way to divvy up passengers between boats: specifically, that it would enable the larger vessels to carry the same number of vehicles but fewer people, and therefore, she said, lower the carbon footprint of those larger boats because they would be lighter.
Should the SSA resurrect its New Bedford terminal?
“I don’t think it’s really practical for trucks overall,” Lyons said. He said he thought perhaps a couple of runs per day might be possible, but he’d “need to see the numbers” before he could back such an idea.
“I don’t know what the economics would be on that,” Malkin said. “It would seem on the surface to be expensive to run out of New Bedford.”
“I think that’s something that ought to be on the list of things to be explored,” Carney said.
He noted SeaStreak, which runs the Whaling City Express and also runs popular ferries between New York and Boston, has established a hub to build off there.
Directing some passengers and freight through New Bedford might “take some of the pressure off Woods Hole,” especially in light of the impending Bourne and Sagamore bridge rebuilds.
“I would have to wait and see … if it would be cost-effective,” Cywinski said. “Is it going to be an asset, or is it going to be a liability?”
What would one priority be for you to address if appointed to the board?
For Malkin, ensuring a strong management process is in place. “This is all about management,” Malkin said. “Identifying what you need to do, measuring whether it’s being done, [and] holding people accountable to get it done” are hallmarks of such a process, he said. “I would hope that the skills that I have in business process would help make management more effective in terms of running a consistent and reliable service at a fair price,” he said.
For Lyons, a rejiggering of Oak Bluffs summer freight schedules needs doing. He said sending freight boats to the Oak Bluffs terminal creates a real headache for truckers. In the summer, many have to wait around in Woods Hole because they are too heavy for the Oak Bluffs terminal, which he said has an 80,000-pound weight limit. Many trucks that carry gravel and lumber, and sometimes general freight, weigh up to 100,000 pounds, he said. When he spoke with The Times from Woods Hole prior to boarding the MV Martha’s Vineyard Thursday afternoon, he was at the wheel of a 100,000-pound truck.
Cywinski said she would want an audit of sorts. “Where’s the money?” she asked. “Why do we need to go to the legislature for more money? Why are we over budget on a project? Did they know these costs going in? Was there effective cost management going in?”
“I think that the authority really needs to improve the way it engages with the community,” Carney said. He said this isn’t limited to the Vineyard, but all “people who take the ferry, no matter where they are. We should be communicating with them much more efficiently and effectively than we do now.” To that end, among other improvements, he’d like to see a shoreside tech upgrade, possibly an SSA app. He pointed out it’s far simpler to reserve movie tickets on a smartphone than it is to reserve SSA passage.
How would you maximize the chairmanship if appointed?
The chairmanship of the Steamship Authority changes on a set rotation. For 2020, the Vineyard holds the seat. “If someone else besides Hanover is appointed, that individual would become chairman by statute immediately,” SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll previously said. Following Hanover’s announcement, Cywinski, Carney, Lyons, or Malkin stand to be chairman.
Lyons said he was unaware the Vineyard had the chairmanship this year. “It all depends on what comes and how things play out,” he said.
Malkin said he would approach the role with his aforementioned goal of helping “create a reliable and consistent service at the right price.” He also said he’s learned from his time as a selectman that patience and consensus are keys to effectiveness.
“I would initiate some investments in getting to know our customers better,” Carney said. To that end, he would usher in new technology, and would survey customers regarding what they want, and in general reach out to them more because, he said, community engagement had “fallen by the wayside.” He also would endeavor to make the SSA “more self-sustaining from an environmental perspective.”
Cywinski said she would immediately be “addressing the money issues.” Additionally she would review the recommendations of the HMS report and assess their implementation. “The basic objective is to make sure the boats operate to provide adequate transportation,” she said. And to that end, “management, money, and boat maintenance, those three, are the most critical.”
The county commissioners have slated interviews for Feb. 5 and Feb. 19. Anyone who wishes to submit a résumé for SSA board consideration must do so by Jan. 31.
Speaking drolly, Hanover said when he first took the position, “the notice said ‘may require off-Island travel.’” He verified that. “It requires a lot of off-Island travel, and a lot of personal time,” he said.
Updated with comments from two additional candidates after breaking the news at 2:30 pm about Hanover’s decision not to seek reappointment. -Ed.