Polls are open today at the Chilmark Community Center from noon to 8.
Voters will be faced with three ballot questions, all school related, and there’s also a contested select board race.
Voters will be asked to approve an override to fund a new HVAC system in the Chilmark school and a feasibility study for the high school renovation or rebuild project; a third ballot questions asks for about $300,000 to fund the Up Island Regional Schools.
Russell Maloney and Marie Larsen are competing for one seat Chilmark select board seat. The position was held by longtime board member Warren Doty, who announced in January he will not seek re-election.
The Times emailed the candidates a set of questions to ask their views on some issues the town faces and why they are running.
Maloney and Larsen also had the opportunity to meet voters during a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Martha’s Vineyard.
The town election will be on Wednesday, April 26, from noon to 8 pm at at the Chilmark Community Center.
How long have you been a resident of Chilmark?
Maloney: 20 years
Larsen: I have lived on the island for 40 years and in Chilmark for the past eight. My husband’s family has had a long history in the town.
Please tell us your occupation or former occupation.
Maloney: I have owned and operated a real estate business in Chilmark for the last 16 years. Prior to moving to Chilmark I had a 25 year career in finance in New York.
Larsen: I am a retired school administrator, after 16 years at the Charter School. Also, my husband and I recently sold our retail fish market, after 37 years of operation.
Maloney: I turn 66 on election day!
Larsen: I am sixty-one.
Education and experience:
Maloney: Some college for theater and music, financial services licenses and a real estate brokerage license.
Larsen: I am a graduate of Smith College with a BA degree in economics. I started a small island business with my husband. I had a business administrator’s license with the Massachusetts department of education while at the Charter School.
What elected, appointed, or volunteered government positions have you previously or currently hold?
Maloney: I have been a member of Chilmark’s Zoning Board for the last 13 years and a member of Chilmark’s Conservation Commission for the last 7 years. I am also on the Board of Directors for the Martha’s Vineyard Island Autism Group. I continue to serve on all three boards today.
Larsen: Although not a town board, I had extensive experience on the Charter School Board. That board is charged with overseeing the financial viability of the school, ensuring academic success, and adhering faithfully to its charter with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. My work included reviewing and approving the school budget similar to the process followed by Chilmark’s Finance Advisory Committee for the town budget. At the Charter School, I also served on the hiring committee, supervised employees, and acted as the parent liaison for the school.
Why did you decide to run for a position on the Chilmark select board?
Maloney: Warren Doty has served our town for 24 years and I have the greatest admiration for Warren. I was approached by some folks in town and asked if I would consider running for Warren’s seat. I have lived in Chilmark for 20 years and have served our community for 13 of those years. I enjoy my work in civic affairs and believe I am qualified for and can bring new ideas to the position of Select Person.
Larsen: I attended the Chilmark Finance Advisory Committee hearings on the FY24 budget cycle in January and February. I learned a great deal during those many hours of meetings this past winter. I became even more interested in the inner workings of our local government, and knowledgeable and concerned about its problems. I have continued to attend these meetings, and plan to do so in the future. In fact, my attendance at these FinCom meetings was the catalyst for my decision to run for the select board. I have also over the past several weeks attended meetings of the select board, the planning board, the Peaked Hill Pastures committee, and the human resources board. I believe that proper governance requires constant vigilance, and I want to be part of the solution, not a bystander. I am fortunate to now have the time and energy to serve, since we recently sold our business to three young islanders. Having passed that torch, I am ready to continue on another path. I have lived and worked on this island for 40 years and I have an intimate understanding of the complexities of our Vineyard economy, and Chilmark’s place within it. I want to help preserve, protect and enhance the experiences for my children and grandchildren, as those who came before did for us.
What is your favorite thing about the town of Chilmark?
Maloney: First and foremost, the people and the sense of community in town. That coupled with Chilmark’s history and scenic beauty.
Larsen: Chilmark is beautiful, of course. From the pastoral beauty to the quaint fishing village of Menemsha, it’s a joy to live here every day. But my favorite aspect of living in the town is the sense of community. My home’s central location at Beetlebung Corner has given me the chance to meet and get to know many more people than I could have imagined. It’s wonderful the help you can give and get in this town if you are present and available. My candidacy for the select board has made this even more obvious to me.The outpouring of support has been overwhelming and I am so grateful.
In your opinion, what are the biggest issues Chilmark is facing right now?
Maloney: Housing: We can do a better job at promoting our currently available housing programs while we await the return of the Housing Bank Bill. Governance: We need to have more of our townspeople, particularly the younger ones, participate in our town boards and committees. Education: We need to ensure quality education is available to our town’s children in a well maintained and safe environment. Preservation of our environment and natural resources: We cannot lose sight of our natural resources and must do as much as we can for preservation and conservation.
Larsen: The taxpayers of Chilmark have a number of large capital expenditures on the horizon — the HVAC at the school, upgrades to the dock in Menemsha, Peaked Hill affordable housing, and paying our share to rebuild the high school, to name a few. These are big ticket items and we need to get current spending under control to pay for these expenditures and to keep the tax rate affordable for young people and people in town on fixed incomes. And of course, we have just started to pay for our new fire/ems stations in town.
One area in Chilmark that gets a lot of attention is Menemsha, particularly with issues like how some parts of it should be used, summer traffic and safety concerns, among others. How do you think the town should approach managing this area?
Maloney: The police department and harbor master have teamed up to ensure traffic safety in Menemsha. We encourage people to use the VTA to travel to Menemsha and that program has had some success but is constrained by limited resources from the VTA. I’d like to see the town operate its own trolley/bus/van service continuously during the summer months from the transfer station parking lot to Menemsha in order to reduce vehicle traffic. I support the warrant article asking for funds for dock repairs in Menemsha.
Larsen: Menemsha should get a lot of attention. It is one of our crown jewels, along with our many working farms, of course. In Menemsha, we have a lot of challenges in the summer to manage traffic, parking, trash, businesses, and more. One challenge is to get the summer sunset shuttle service between the offsite parking on Tabor House Road and Menemsha back to pre-COVID operations. Another challenge is to improve the shared traffic/parking duties between the harbormaster and police chief — a collaboration that began last summer. I know this will work, but it needs some fine tuning.
Chilmark School is an important subject for the town. There’s a need for a new preschool and there are plans to replace the HVAC system. What do you think the town should focus on to support the school and improve education for Chilmark children?
Maloney: Chilmark children, and all children, should be provided with quality education in a safe, comfortable and well maintained environment. The HVAC repairs are a necessity and we should be supportive. I understand the Chilmark school is nearly at capacity, hence the need for a new preschool building which I support.
Larsen: [At] town meeting on April 24, I hope the voters will accept the warrant to pay for the HVAC repairs to make the school safe and comfortable for our children. It is an expensive project, but one that must be done. I also support the warrant to lease town land to the non-profit preschool to build its own building. Overall, I believe that we should do everything we can to make and keep our local elementary school an excellent place for Chilmark’s children. For our town to remain alive and vibrant we need young families to come, and they will be drawn here if we support our great school in the heart of town!