W.T. selectmen embrace select board prospect

Panel poised to review fire chief candidate pool of seven.

West Tisbury selectmen took steps Wednesday night to convert to a select board.

In what amounts to a hat trick of successes for the Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Forum over the course of three days, West Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday night to hold a special town meeting specifically on the question of whether to petition the state legislature to back a conversion from West Tisbury selectmen to a West Tisbury select board. 

The vote came following acknowledgment of correspondence from Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Forum member Jane Edmonds. Edmonds and her colleague Kate Putnam convinced Edgartown on Monday and Chilmark on Tuesday to take similar transitional paths. 

Ahead of the vote, town administrator Jennifer Rand reminded the board the annual town meeting warrant is closed. She said her preliminary understanding was such a conversion would require a home rule petition via a town meeting vote. She said the board could reopen the annual town meeting warrant to add the question. 

Selectman Skipper Manter said he wasn’t inclined to go that route, and suggested holding a one-article special town meeting ahead of the annual town meeting to service the change.

“I feel like it’s an important question to answer,” chair Cynthia Mitchell said. “I know that there’s certainly a trend. And a welcome trend, obviously.”

However, Mitchell and Rand were more in favor of opening the annual warrant than holding a special town meeting. 

“I think it’s an important question too, and I don’t care which way you do it,” selectman Kent Healy said.

But when it came to a vote, Mitchell backed Manter’s special town meeting option. The special town meeting is expected to be held just before the annual town meeting, which will take place at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs on May 18 at 5 pm.

Rand reminded the board the annual town election is set for April 15, from 7 am to 8 pm, and that absentee ballots are now available. 

As part of the town’s quest to secure a replacement for retiring West Tisbury Fire Chief Manuel Estrella III, the board discussed the next steps in the process following the closure of the application process. Specifically, the board weighed whether to form another committee now that the preliminary screening committee has done its work, or to use that committee again to further vet candidates. 

“We have seven applications, I’m told,” Mitchell said

“Yes,” Rand acknowledged. 

“I’ll step out of line a little bit here and say I think that we formed a pretty excellent committee, and it would be a shame not to use their expertise in this,” Mitchell said. “So I would be strongly in favor of referring the group of seven applications for a referral back of finalists.” 

Manter said he thought the preliminary screening committee was charged with such work from the get-go.

Rand said the full charge of the committee wasn’t clear enough to preclude her not revisiting the subject with the board.

The board went on to vote unanimously to send the seven applicants back to the preliminary screening committee for finalist evaluations. 

West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone, Edgartown Fire Chief Alex Schaffer, Dukes County Commissioner Leon Brathwaite, and Rand make up the committee. The addition of a member of the West Tisbury Fire Department is pending, Rand said.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Tara Whiting-Wells from the conservation commission.

Manter expressed appreciation for Whiting-Wells’ “many years of service.”

“Hear, hear,” said Mitchell.