Updated June 2
The Oak Bluffs select board unanimously voted to hire Kristina West as the new principal assessor. It also unanimously approved Oak Bluffs town administrator Deborah Potter and assistant town administrator Wendy Brough to enter into contract negotiations with West.
West competed for the position left behind by former Oak Bluffs principal assessor MacGregor Anderson, who resigned in February for an opportunity in West Tisbury.
Two candidates were interviewed during the special select board meeting, West, who was in Maine, by Zoom, and Meghan Montesion in person.
Both candidates are alumni from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, and grew up on the Island. After high school, West went to Long Island University in Southampton, N.Y., while Montesion studied at Bridgewater State University. Both women had similar ideas of what is important for a principal assessor to do, such as being transparent with taxpayers, but their job experiences prior to the interview were fairly different.
West moved south to be a mortgage underwriter before coming back to Martha’s Vineyard, where she became an appraiser apprentice. She became a certified residential appraiser, and later on was the principal assessor in West Tisbury. She returned to private assessing, but missed interacting with people. West also has experience as the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society’s executive director.
Montesion originally planned to be a sixth grade teacher, but came back home to Martha’s Vineyard for family reasons. Montesion has experience in the service industry. In the private sector, she was a part of running a gas and fire suppression system company, and worked with Sparkle Window Cleaning to grow their business. Montesion also has five years worth of assessing experience with the town of Tisbury. Later on, Montesion worked at the Tisbury Police Department as the assistant to the chief, whom she already knew, and who was looking for someone “strong-minded” to help change how the department was running. She worked there for two years before becoming a data collector for the town of West Tisbury.
Board members felt both candidates did well during their interviews, which made it a difficult decision.
“You have two really good candidates that I think we were both extremely pleased with. So regardless of which one you pick, I’m going to do whatever I can to steal the other one, too,” Potter said to the board. “There will be an opening at some point at another job somewhere down the road, and I think both of these ladies, or individuals, would be fantastic in town hall.”
Oak Bluffs select board chair Ryan Ruley said the difference maker for him in this “neck and neck” competition was West’s experience.
“Ms. West has experience in municipality and on Martha’s Vineyard doing this, being a principal assessor. To me, that’s important,” Ruley said. “I think both of them understood once they’re hired, they’re going to be on the go. I mean, this is a ‘throw in the fire’ type of job.”
After some more deliberation, the board made a consensus that West is the candidate to pursue before making the motion to hire her and enter into contract negotiations.
The board also interviewed Adam Petkus for the role of local inspector. Petkus’ experience and accreditations showed, as board member Brian Packish described him, a “unicorn” candidate. Packish pointed out how rare it was to find someone who could come in as a local inspector and hit the ground running with little training. However, a concern was whether the town would be able to keep him. During the interview, Petkus requested $85,000 a year for his salary, which is higher than the listed salary range of $61,000 to $74,600. Petkus said $85,000 was what he feels is a “living wage” for him and his growing family to be on Martha’s Vineyard. After Petkus left the room and the board fell into a discussion, the main concern was the budget. Paying Petkus the requested amount could have ramifications for financing in other parts of the town’s governance. Eventually, the board unanimously voted to hire Petkus, and approved for Potter and Brough to enter into contract negotiations with the candidate to get as close to the requested salary as possible.
Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved the donation of a piano and $10 given to the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging.
Updated with a correction that Meghan Montesion became a data collector for West Tisbury, not Tisbury.