Tisbury select board candidates share their thoughts

Burt, Campbell, Colarusso, and Rose vie for Gomez’s seat.

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Christina Colarusso, Abbe Burt, Bruce Campbell, or Donald Rose are running to fill the select board seat vacated by Larry Gomez. — MV Times

On Jan. 24, Tisbury will hold a special election in order to find someone to complete the term of Larry Gomez, who has resigned from the select board for health reasons. On May 9, the seat will be up for election again, for a full three-year term.

The four candidates currently vying for a temporary seat on the Tisbury select board were given the opportunity to introduce themselves to voters in a forum organized by the League of Women Voters of Martha’s Vineyard Monday.

The league is a nonpartisan political organization that promotes active and informed citizen participation in government, in voting, and in influencing public policy through education and advocacy. Monday’s forum was moderated by LWV’s Beatrice Phear.

Abbe Burt, a self described “12th-generation Islander,” moved to the Vineyard full-time in 1974. She has worked for Cronig’s Real Estate, Black Dog Tall Ships, and the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, in addition to having served as town accountant for West Tisbury, and having been involved in a number of boards and committees in that town. Currently, Burt serves on the Tisbury affordable housing and Community Preservation committees. 

“I’d like to contribute my business and municipal experience to the board of selectmen in Tisbury,” she said.

Bruce Campbell has lived on the Vineyard since 1966, and has served on Tisbury’s finance committee and the police advisory committee. Campbell worked for Campbell Energy Advisors, and ran a party boat out of Oak Bluffs, and a tugboat for the Army Corps of Engineers. 

Donald Rose has lived on the Vineyard since 1988, and has served in law enforcement periodically since 1977, beginning with the New Bedford Police Department, and later as assistant deputy superintendent with the Sheriff’s Department, where he was in charge of daily operations at the Island’s jail. Now retired, Rose had also worked throughout the Cape and Islands, providing transportation to senior citizens and disabled persons, in addition to teaching law enforcement courses and providing training to local police departments. 

“I’m not afraid to speak on major issues such as Beach Road Weekend,” he added, “or the Tisbury School … my intention is to do everything in my power to move Tisbury forward.” 

Rose promises to be “accessible and available” to constituents.

Christina Colarusso has lived on the Island full-time for more than a decade. A graduate of Massachusetts Maritime Academy, she has served as a marine engineer, is a certified water and wastewater operator, and has worked as Tisbury’s emergency management director. Currently, she is employed at the M.V. Airport as the facilities manager. Colarusso is a volunteer firefighter, teaches youth swim lessons, and has been involved in the town’s now defunct public works advisory board and wastewater planning committee. During the pandemic, Colarusso was responsible for the distribution of personal protective equipment to first responders Island-wide as a supply officer for the Martha’s Vineyard Emergency Management Directors Association. 

“Tisbury has come a long way, making more improvements each year,” she said, “but still, certain areas need attention, and long-term capital improvements need to be addressed — especially flooding, climate change issues, and everything that’s going on at Five Corners.” 

Colarusso highlighted the need for enhanced “transparency and communication.”

“I love the town of Tisbury, and I’m here for the long haul,” she said. 

Phear posed questions to the candidates submitted by the LWV and from the public on an array of topics, such as climate change mitigation, affordable housing, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and the Katharine Cornell Memorial Theater. 

All four candidates agreed that attention should be paid to a more comprehensive planning and preparation initiative among the six towns when it comes to finding ways to reduce the impact of climate change on the Island. 

Colarusso advocated for improved infrastructure geared toward climate change resiliency, and strengthening communication with climate and energy planning groups Island-wide.

Campbell stated that Tisbury ought to put more effort into increasing municipal solar power generation, and focusing on reducing use of fossil fuels. 

On affordable housing, Rose said, “The town needs to take an initiative in trying to provide housing.” 

Working with the town’s planning board and changing the town’s zoning ordinances could help with the housing problem, Campbell said, in order to allow for construction of multi-unit housing. 

Additionally, Tisbury needs to focus on expanding the town’s sewage treatment facility to accommodate increased population density. 

Colarusso said it’d be beneficial for Tisbury to incentivize accessory dwelling units, and potentially enact a residential exemption for homeowners who rent to year-round residents. 

Burt advocated for working closely with other Island entities in addition to Nantucket, to help find ways to alleviate the housing crisis. As a member of the Community Preservation committee, Burt said she has lobbied for “at least 50 percent” of the CPC funds to go into affordable housing initiatives. On what really ought to be considered “community housing,” she said, “I support all kinds of people being eligible.”

The select board needs to increase support for the town’s volunteer boards and committees, Burt said, particularly the affordable housing committee. 

On whether the town takes full advantage of the services provided by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Colarusso said the town could better utilize the data procured by the commission, particularly its ArcGIS system. 

Rose said although he’s not well versed regarding the commission’s doings, he feels “concern” over prior decisions made by commissioners, adding that they work “out[side] their jurisdiction.” 

Burt said the select board should have increased communication with the commission’s Tisbury representatives. She said she hasn’t seen coordination between the town’s elected and appointed commissioners and the select board. 

Phear asked the candidates their thoughts on how the Katherine Cornell Memorial Theater is currently being utilized. 

Campbell said he “doesn’t understand” why the town has taken over the public space for “private, executive offices.” He said the intent of the theater was for it to be used as a public gathering space. “It should remain so,” he said.

Colarusso said she’d like to look into whether or not the town is even in compliance with the original intention of the space.

The issue “needs to be looked into rapidly,” Burt said. She acknowledged the temporary need for the town to use the theater as office space during the height of the pandemic, but insisted that the theater should be for public use, as intended.