With ballot slots left blank, O.B. needs newcomers

Select board approved appointments to the ZBA and MV Cultural Council on Friday.

The Oak Bluffs select board, shown here at town meeting, held a rare Friday afternoon meeting. -Abigail Rosen

In a rare Friday afternoon session, the Oak Bluffs select board met to approve the appointment of Leah Brown to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), and Abby Bender to the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council. Both positions hold three-year terms.

Brown, an attorney and owner of a clinical research company, has also served on the board of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. Brown said that she is “very familiar with some of the hurdles you have to go through in terms of permitting,” adding that she is “very committed to the beatification of Oak Bluffs, [and feels] that our historic charm is one of the best in the country and I just want to serve to help protect that. I think it’s my time to serve,” she said.

Select board chair Brian Packish said Brown “would be a valuable addition to [the town’s] ZBA.

Select board member Gail Barmakian agreed with Packish, adding that “it would be nice to have a legal perspective” on the ZBA.

Bender, a choreographer who also runs the Built-on Stilts program which has been “a very grateful recipient of Cultural Council funds for the last 20 years,” said that she knows how much the funding helps local programs. “So many of the programs that I enjoy here culturally also get some funding from the M.V. Cultural Council,” she said. “I’d love to serve on the other side of things.”

“You’re running a great program,” said Packish, adding that the program’s events are “spectacular.”

The board members also expressed their congratulations to Barmakian for her reelection at the polls on Thursday in addition to acknowledging the campaigns of the other candidates.

“Thank you to the voters,” said Barmakian. “We had a great turn out…it was a tiring day, but fun,” she said.

The board approved sending a letter of endorsement for the SSA to continue operating a 5:30 am freight boat between Woods Hole and the Vineyard.

Additionally, the board addressed an open meeting law complaint regarding the accurate recording of meeting minutes and authorized the chair to release a response letter to the complaining party in addition to the attorney general’s office.

Before the meeting closed for executive session, finance committee member Maura McGroarty spoke about the number of empty slots on the ballot during Thursday’s election. “I was stunned,” she said. Noting there were no candidates for the finance committee, the cemetery commission, or for constable. “We really do need to reactivate total involvement in what’s going on in the town.”

Packish agreed. “I’m still in shock [that] we spent $35 million on a budget in about 16 minutes with next to no representation of the town,” he said referring to Tuesday’s town meeting. “Hopefully we can find ways to engage folks and get them to participate further.”


  1. To clarify: You held a special select board meeting on the Friday that school vacation started and then complained that people aren’t involved in town affairs? “Out of touch” would be a diplomatic way of putting it.

    • Selectboard meetings should be scheduled based on the school schedule?
      No meetings unless the schools are in session.
      No summer meetings?

      • Albert– Cillian has a valid point. Look around the island this week. School vacation is here– parents with kids are gone.
        If you really want to have a true representation, you think about the scheduling.
        Let me ask a hypothetical question;
        If a special town meeting were scheduled for Easter Sunday morning at 10:00, do you think there may be fewer Christians in attendance ?

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