West Tisbury selectmen issue diversity statement

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West Tisbury selectmen approve a diversity statement. - Rich Saltzberg

As the nation continues to convulse in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, West Tisbury selectmen opted to issue a diversity statement. After much tinkering with the language during the board’s Tuesday meeting, selectmen voted unanimously to approve the statement. As part of the statement, the board announced it would “create a Task Force Against Discrimination … who can respond to issues and concerns from the community.” 

The formation and precise composition of the task force was relegated to a future meeting. However, the diversity statement provided for the possibility of “a member of the clergy, a law enforcement officer, an attorney or educator, and concerned citizens appointed yearly by the board of selectmen.” The task force would meet openly to “discuss concerns raised by the residents of the town, and to create ongoing programs that will celebrate diversity within the town.” 

After brief discussion on the task force, the board concentrated on refining the language of the statement ahead of the vote. 

“The board of selectmen of the town of West Tisbury recognizes and values diversity as a vital characteristic of the town,” the statement begins. “Yet, this moment calls on us to state unequivocally that we stand in solidarity with black, brown, indigenous, and all people of color against racial injustice and for racial equity.” 

It further states, “The board of selectmen celebrates the diversity of the community it serves and the individuals it employs, embracing the differences in race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, economic status, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.” 

The statement indicates the board, on behalf of the town, takes its commitment to inclusivity seriously, by “practicing a community policing model,” among other things.

West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone later said community policing has long been West Tisbury’s model, as has approachability and respect for all. “We’re all neighbors,” he said. 

In the statement, the board vows to “increase our broader understanding by requiring cultural competency, trauma and antiracism and anti-bias training for all staff members,” and to “further develop and promote equitable hiring policies and leadership cultivation at all levels of our organization.”

Selectman candidate Michael Bellissimo, who contributed language to the statement on behalf of himself and town moderator Dan Waters, lauded the board for its work. “Kudos for the select board for making a statement on behalf of the town,” he said.