Ewell Hopkins not seeking re-election

The planning board chair was an outspoken critic of the synthetic turf field.

Ewell Hopkins, chairman of the Oak Bluffs planning board, in 2019. — Gabrielle Mannino

Oak Bluff voters going to the polls for the annual town election on April 11 will notice one prominent official absent: Ewell Hopkins, longtime planning board chair, is not seeking re-election.

Hopkins, who has been an outspoken critic of the artificial turf field proposed for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, served two terms on the planning board, a total of 10 years.

Hopkins tells The Times that he will focus on being an unapologetic environmentalist with his extra time, which he says is very difficult to do as a member of the planning board.

“If you have a passion around environmental stewardship, you can’t be an effective elected official,” Hopkins said. “An elected official has to represent everyone in the community,” he said, adding that following the decisionmaking process of the board can be a challenge when trying to make effective environmental changes. 

Hopkins was first elected to the board in 2014, after he defeated longtime incumbent John Bradford. At the time, Hopkins ran on a platform of revising what he called outdated and conflicting zoning. 

Coincidentally, Hopkins leaves his seat with the planning board bringing forward a substantial and controversial zoning reform package to town meeting voters on April 9. Oak Bluffs is zoned almost entirely for residential uses, and the board is asking voters to reconsider decades-old laws to give more space for light industrial and professional services.

“After 10 years, I’m so proud to say this is going to be discussed for the first time,” Hopkins said.

The planning board member may be best known to Islanders for his continued opposition to the turf field planned for the high school. Hopkins voted to reject a special permit for the field in 2022, and then to appeal a decision by a land court judge who had ruled against the planning board in December (the board would ultimately withdraw the appeal, citing other town leaders who opposed the town’s involvement). 

Hopkins says that his only regret over the issue is not the votes that he took, but that school committee members — while filing a lawsuit against the planning board — did not argue against the possible environmental concerns of the turf field; their legal filings were more about whether or not the planning board had the legal authority to review the field. 

“They challenged and threatened the legitimacy of the planning board,” Hopkins said. “I find that to be the most dangerous assertion over my 10 years.” 

Over his decade of service, the planning board member said, his proudest moment may be helping to improve pedestrian access near the Martha’s Vineyard Skatepark, which led to safer access to facilities at the high school and M.V. Community Services. Before bringing new infrastructure, Hopkins said that passengers getting off the bus on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road had to cross the road twice to get to the area.

“Symbolically, it was a small project. But to me, it shows the kind of thinking we need to do for every project,” he said.

Hopkins said that he will focus on his service as a board member to both the Vineyard Conservation Society and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. 

“That’s where I can be an unapologetic tree hugger, because that’s who I am,” Hopkins said. 



  1. It is always easier to play with other peoples money, which is what this chairman had done. The taxpayers were not treated fairly, and that will be his legacy whether he likes it or not. Good luck in the future and now you can use your money to support your cause.

  2. Not a moment too soon. If only we the taxpayers could get all the money you wasted on vanity legal stunts back into the towns coffers.

    And as a black man myself, I am happy to say:

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, brutha!

  3. Rather arrogant view of himself. “Challenged the legitimacy of the planning board”. He conveniently skips facts. The High school included Dover in its original cover letter with the application. He ignored advice of counsel. More than once it should be pointed out. Oh. And the judge agreed that it was outside his jurisdiction. Repeat. He lost. Nobody challenged the board, they merely asked that they follow the actual law. And the judge agreed. Regardless of what he wanted the school committee to comment on, he repeatedly ignored the testing results and that the existing soils were and still are worse to leave there than the materials proposed. We never got that settlement offer in public view because he failed to present it to his board. I guess that arrogance prevented his possible loss of a vote he was darn sure he could control. He must have refused to meet jointly with the school committee because it never materialized despite the coverage this newspaper gave to the school committee request. He ignored the massive plastic structures to go in at Donaromas without a blink. Mr environmentalist indeed. Actions are inconsistent with words.

  4. Thank you, Ewell…proud of your distinguished public service and proud to call you friend and neighbor…you make us stronger and better, leading by example and rising above the fray…we are grateful for the gifts of integrity and unshakeable commitment you bring to our table. Best wishes to you as you find other worthy and meaningful ways to serve and protect this amazing Island some of us love and deserve to call home.

  5. “Some of us”

    I would say that is a rather privileged view of your short life on island. We are all transient in this world. It’s nice to know there are arbiters of who deserves to live in a place. Same attitude of this chair. His way or no way.

  6. I am dismayed to see the negativity expressed here towards someone who was willing to serve, willing to put the time in and work on real issues. We don’t all agree on everything (or much of anything, lol) but it is a small number of citizens who actually step up and do the work. I thank you, Ewell, for your years of service.

  7. At the end of the day yes, Ewell cost taxpayers some money due to lawsuits. Not happy about that. But his persistence ultimately led to the demise of a foolhardy plan to have our kids play sports on a plastic carpet. I’ve always wondered how many parents would lay down plastic in their backyard for kids to play on? Ya….none. Thanks Ewell!

  8. I’ve known Ewell Hopkins for over 20 years. When you know someone from more than you read in the papers, or experience only through one facet of their life, perspective is often very different. Ewell and I have often disagreed on various subjects and hot button issues – sometimes vehemently and loudly. I have seen him change his mind on more than one occasion and stand his ground on many. His fierce advocacy is admirable. All humans have opinions, and elected officials are no different. We benefit from leaders who take a position and support it with facts and zeal. Oak Bluffs and the island as a whole is better off for having leaders unafraid to support their positions, even – especially – in the face of strong opposition. Enjoy your “retirement” my friend.

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