West Tisbury aiming to boost confidence in government

West Tisbury is working on improving its governance process. — MV Times

Updated Sept. 26

West Tisbury is looking toward improving its governance style with the creation of a new task force. 

The town’s select board unanimously approved the creation of the five-person Improving Governance Task Force during a meeting last week.

“So voters, residents, have greater confidence in town governance, we outlined the process for them,” task force member Susan Silk said. 

According to the document outlining the task force’s goals, the group will be creating and maintaining a town governance handbook. The group will also create a “monitoring process” to promote a clear understanding of the town’s various governing bodies, recruitment of appointees to committees that match a candidate’s skills and experiences with the work to be done, standards of conduct, adherence to rules, and high confidence among voters and residents in the town’s governmental processes. 

With the gathering and researching for information, the actual implementation is expected to be done by the end of next June or July.

Residents John Christensen, Silk, and Cynthia Mitchell, who is also a select board member, are the first three appointed to the committee. 

“We set a conservative timeline so we could pull this off by the next fiscal year, because there’s so many committees and so many people,” Christensen said. 

Christensen, Silk, and Mitchell had already been looking into this work prior to being appointed. According to Christensen, the members were referencing Manchester-by-the-Sea’s handbook for West Tisbury’s process. 

There have been times when a West Tisbury governing body, such as the town’s affordable housing committee, needed to refocus its duties after dissatisfaction regarding its processes. 

The task force plans to have regularly scheduled meetings. The remaining positions will be advertised by the town. 

Meanwhile, West Tisbury will be holding a special town meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 6 pm at West Tisbury School. The last day to register to vote for the special town meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 3, by 5 pm, at West Tisbury Town Hall. The special town meeting warrant will close on Oct. 10. 

The select board voted 2-0 to rescind the appointments of Manter and Nancy Cabot to the Up-Island Council on Aging board. Manter abstained from voting. The board unanimously approved Mitchell to the Council on Aging board as an interim member.

A previous version of this story stated the special town meeting was on Nov. 16.


  1. Would someone explain to me how a trio of West Tisbury insiders is going to “boost confidence” in town government? Creating a handbook that hardly anyone reads will be about as effective as running a website that hardly anyone visits.

  2. Perhaps I said we would have a monitoring process, but we are actually planning a self assessment survey to find out what are the strengths and weakness of the current system and go from there. Any audit would focus on evaluating the current instructions and guidance that committees and committee members receive, to make sure they match the intent of the Mass. General Law where that applies, town bylaws, and internal committee bylaws, where they exist. We have fielded no shortage of complaints, but little evidence to guide us, so assessment has to be the first step. Also, our premise going in is that people who volunteer to be on committees want to do a good job, but some may not know what’s expected

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