Updated Jan. 28
There are three more candidates looking to represent the Island on the Steamship Authority board, bringing the total to seven, with an eighth kicking the tires on filing an application, according to Dukes County manager Martina Thornton.
Rob Lytle of Oak Bluffs, a technology management consultant, has applied along, with Clarence (“Trip”) Barnes III, a Martha’s Vineyard Commission member and longtime Islander who needs no introduction, and Elmer Vanderhoop of Aquinnah.
They join Michael Lyons, James Malkin, Angela Cywinski, and Allen Carney as folks who have taken out nomination papers to replace Marc Hanover on the board. Last week, Hanover, who is currently serving as the SSA board chair, made a surprise announcement that he would not seek a new term on the committee. The SSA has been under the microscope as a result of mechanical breakdowns over the past couple of years.
Thornton said the county commissioners have a meeting on Feb. 5, but have not yet decided on whether they’ll interview candidates for the SSA board or the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission at that meeting.
Lytle, who commutes off-Island about once a week either for business or as a touring musician, said he began actively following the SSA during the mechanical troubles of 2018. He said he has attended meetings, and learned about the issues involved. “I truly believe this is a critical time and issue for the Island,” he said. “My background allows me to help.” That background involves delving into risk assessment and scope as a project manager, he said.
In his letter, Lytle wrote, “I believe that my neighbors and our community require a representative who will assertively, and constructively, advocate for Martha’s Vineyard, and actively work to rebuild that confidence and credibility.”
Barnes said he tried to get the position when Hanover was picked. His strength, he said, is years of using the ferries for his business, and listening to the customers who use it. He’s a candidate who knows what it takes to operate a large business and payroll. “They got a couple of problems that should have been handled a long time ago,” he said.
Vanderhoop could not immediately be reached for comment.
Here’s how Lytle and Barnes answered the four questions posed to the other candidates by The Times:
Should the SSA establish a fast ferry on the Vineyard route?
While Lytle said a fast ferry could be a good addition in the future by moving just people, not people and cars, the SSA’s focus has to be on making sure operational pieces and good procedures are in place to deliver on its core mission. “Until you get the basics right, you need to focus on that first,” he said.
Barnes said a fast ferry is not needed. “What do you need a fast ferry for? It’s a 45-minute boat ride. It’s a little ridiculous.”
Should the SSA resurrect its New Bedford terminal?
Lytle has read the reports on using New Bedford for freight, but without the infrastructure in place, it doesn’t make sense. The state would have to agree to provide some money to subsidize the infrastructure, he said: “Until that happens, that’s not economically viable right now.”
Barnes has a twist on the SSA idea. He thinks it should be used to bring seasonal visitors to the Island, not freight. “They should run cars out of New Bedford, because everyone here comes from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. They’d love to cut off that last hour.”
What would one priority be for you to address if appointed to the board?
Lytle makes it clear that he thinks the board’s focus should be implementing the recommendations made by the HMS consulting report. The SSA needs to continue to focus on its reorganization. “We have a credibility and confidence problem right now, and we need to fix it,” he said.
The construction project in Woods Hole is a concern, Barnes said: “I can’t believe that it’s taken so much time and money to get where they are with the site for the slips and new building.”
How would you maximize the chairmanship if appointed?
Being an assertive and constructive advocate for the Island, Lytle said: “I think that’s the first role — you listen, talk to people, and keep an open mind. At the same time, you remember who it is you represent.”
Barnes isn’t keen on starting out in that seat. “If I’ve gotta do it, I’ll do it. I just think it’s presumptuous for the new guy,” he said. “If I get in, I’ll do the best job I can do. When I say I’m going to do it, I’ll do it.”
Updated with comments from Barnes. -Ed.