County treasurer may become appointed role

Dukes County commissioners agreed to move forward with legislative changes.

Commissioners voted in favor of petitioning the legislature to allow the county to hire a treasurer from outside the county. — MV Times

At its Wednesday meeting, the Dukes County Commission unanimously approved changes to legislation that would allow for the county treasurer to go from being an elected position to an appointed one. Ultimately, it will be up to Dukes County voters whether this change happens.

Additionally, the commission unanimously voted to change the legislation in order to broaden the search for candidates outside the jurisdiction of Dukes County. 

This follows numerous discussions regarding the ongoing difficulty of finding an adequate replacement for former treasurer Ann Metcalf, who left her county role in July after being offered a job as financial administrator for the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. 

Commission chair Christine Todd advocated for the legislative changes. “Given what we have been experiencing,” she said, “in response to our advertisements and plea, and [from] newspaper articles, citing we need a treasurer and we have very few people coming forward for this position, I do feel a sense of urgency in this matter.” 

Todd noted that the decision would not solve the immediate problem of needing a county treasurer to complete the remaining two years of Metcalf’s term, but would be paramount in order to avoid similar issues in the future. 

Commissioners voted on the issue in two parts, although Todd emphasized that a vote to allow for hiring someone outside of the county would be antithetical to requiring that same person to also be elected. Similarly, restricting the search to only Dukes County, and making changes to allow appointment to the position, would not solve the problem either. The best option, she said, was to expand the search to all of the commonwealth, and to allow commissioners to appoint the best candidate to the role (no mention was made regarding whether the commission would consider appointments from outside the state of Massachusetts.) “I firmly believe that this is a direction we need to take,” Todd said. 

Commissioner Tristan Israel said although the commission was planning to make the decision in 2023, there is an undeniable urgency to the matter. “The sooner we get this ball moving, the better,” he said. 

Additionally, Israel said he supports the commissioner’s “ability to develop criteria to appoint a treasurer,” and the ability to find adequate candidates. 

Commissioner Peter Wharton said he’s been researching past financial management reviews, and cited a review done by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue in 2010. 

The report stated a suggestion by DOR “at an opportune time, to make a recommendation that [DCC] file special legislation to convert from elected treasurer to one that is appointed by the county.” Wharton made sure to clarify that the suggestion was, and is, “not reflective of the treasurer at the time.” 

The benefits of doing so, Wharton said, are that the DCC “can establish minimum job qualifications, which is not something we can do with an elected position.“ 

Also, appointing a treasurer allows for the commission to conduct “an extensive interview process,” complete with a background check of potential candidates, in order to ensure that whoever is up for the role has ideal professional qualifications and experience. 

Opening up a search throughout the commonwealth allows the county access to a broader pool of candidates, he said, and has the ability to “attract somebody with the strongest credentials, and the most relevant experience.” 

WIth an elected position, most of those steps are not possible, Wharton said. At the end of the day, “we want the treasurer position for the county to succeed, and be effective.”

Wharton said that although the legislative changes would not impact the next two years, it would allow whoever takes over as interim treasurer to gain knowledge and experience working for the county, and then apply for appointment. 

Referencing the failed attempt to change the treasurer position to an appointed one in 2020, commissioner Keith Chatinover made note that despite the unanimous decision by commissioners, the conversion from an elected to appointed position would still need to be taken up by Dukes County voters. 

“We’re not trying to circumvent the public,” Chatinover emphasized, adding that he is aware that many voters opted to keep the position an elected one two years ago. “It’s my understanding that if we made better arguments” for why the change is necessary, he said, it would have passed. In particular, he said, “the towns are now moving to this model. You don’t see elected positions of this type of specificity very frequently anymore.” 

The change is “incredibly important to the well-being of our county,” Chatinover said, adding that commissioners would welcome public engagement in the matter.

Israel agreed, noting that the local political climate has shifted, and commented that when voters took up the issue previously, the elected treasurer at the time was well-known and had “a lot of community cachet.” 

In other business, commissioners who were not present at the recent joint meeting between Nantucket and Vineyard select boards received an update on how preliminary collaborations are going between the two islands. 

“It was a good meeting,”said commission chair Christine Todd. “It’s a beginning.” 

“I do feel it is very productive to have these meetings on a regular basis,” she said, “nothing less than quarterly … I don’t envision any one of our six towns moving this forward, so I think the county can play a role in helping to pursue a [more] collaborative effort with Nantucket. I hope to succeed in that.” Todd said she plans on reaching out to Nantucket’s county chair to coordinate. 

Commissioners all expressed interest in pursuing more frequent meetings with Nantucket reps.

“There’s strength in numbers,” Israel said, noting that lessons can be learned from Nantucket, and issues that both islands face.


  1. My understanding is that an elected county treasurer under the current arrangements serves a term of six years. Ann Metcalf was elected in 2020 and resigned in 2022. So were someone appointed now, which unfortunately doesn’t seem likely, would they serve the entire remaining four years of the current term, or as an appointed treasurer to fill a vacancy only until the next state election in 2024?

    As treasurer of the Airport I am acutely aware of the county treasurer’s importance. By state statute all disbursements for both the County and Airport have to be made by the County Treasurer, the majority of which are for the Airport by a factor of at least three, depending on the year. It involves many millions of dollars. There has to be a County Treasurer with the qualifications for the job, a big complex job. Someone cannot walk into it off the street. Nor is it like handling the finances of a small home owners’ association, or the sixth grade PTA. The DOR recommendation made long ago that this position needs to be appointed is correct, as several Vineyard towns have also concluded for their finances.

    The simpler times of yesteryear are just that: yesteryear. I know change is hard, but change we must. This is a change we have to make.

  2. Here’s an idea let’s get rid of county government like the rest of the state has done. Another taxpayer drain on us all.

  3. Bob the truth is that all of Massachusetts has some level of county government.
    All counties have courts, jails and Sheriffs.
    Not to mention the keeper of real estate deeds.

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