Chilmark council grilled by residents over tennis dispute

Two more resigned from the town affairs council board over the weekend.

Sparks flew this past weekend over issues surrounding tennis in Chilmark. —Daniel Greenman

Tensions flared at the Chilmark Community Center on Sunday during a discussion on the issues surrounding tomorrow’s town meeting vote over who will manage the town’s tennis courts.

Some attendees were left puzzled as to how an issue about tennis courts could have become so polarizing in the community, but for those on the opposing sides of this issue, the talk represented a boiling point after months of simmering disagreement and finger pointing.

If voters approve Article 32 at the annual town meeting on Tuesday, a public town tennis committee would be created to manage the courts year-round, transferring ownership away from the Chilmark Town Affairs Council (CTAC) that manages the courts in the summer. The article was proposed by the Friends and Associates of Chilmark Tennis (FACT).

Amid mounting criticism of the CTAC leadership in how it has dealt with the divisive issue, the long-serving tennis pro in Chilmark, Eddie Stahl, was a focus on Sunday. Some in the audience said they felt he was the victim of a concerted effort by CTAC leadership to have him removed from the community tennis court where he has taught and coached players for 25 years. At one point in Sunday’s meeting, dozens in attendance raised their hands in a show of support for Stahl.

Voters did not get a direct reply on whether Stahl’s contract would be renewed from embattled CTAC president Suellen Lazarus, or from Susan Pimental Andrien, executive director of the Chilmark Community Center. Leadership told attendees multiple times on Sunday that they would not comment on personnel issues.

“I’d like to begin by addressing an issue that is often mentioned as the reason why FACT was formed and the tennis bylaw was proposed,” Lazarus said on Sunday. “That issue is that there is a personal problem between the tennis pro and me. This is not true. As the chair, I have worked to preserve his employment each year.”

Residents also grilled CTAC leadership regarding a video posted publicly this past week by Kyle Williams, who has worked with CTAC before on anti-racism training. The video asked voters to reject FACT’s proposal, and many at the meeting felt that the video deployed vague allegations of racism in an attempt to steer voters away from FACT. The video also pointed to an unnamed tennis instructor, which appeared to be referencing Stahl, for unspecified problematic behavior.

The video has been taken down, but Williams has since shared a letter to Chilmark residents asking whether disrespectful behavior from Mr. Stahl contributed to the 2023 resignation of Kiera Lapsley, the executive director of the community center’s camp.

“[The video] implies that we … are regressive at best and racist at worst,” said Max Simon on Sunday.

Lazarus told residents that CTAC neither approved nor helped produce the video. But she did say that she provided photos of camp counselors and children used in the video, adding that such photos had been previously used in the public domain without objection.

Simon also read a list of 11 CTAC board members who he said have resigned in the last 18 months, adding that two more, Chris Fischer and Ben Lillenthal, resigned on Saturday.

Lazarus did not directly respond to the list of resignations, and did not comment when asked on some in the community having called for her to resign. She did say on Sunday that FACT has made the board’s work very difficult.

“Each board member has experienced a great deal of pressure, questioning the board’s decisions, and dividing the board,” she said.

In another point of contention at Sunday’s meeting, a letter circulated that accused Lazarus of rescinding a job offer to Troy Lawson — the 2023 executive director of the community center’s summer camp — to return to the position this summer.

“[M]y strong impression was that she rescinded my offer because I did not share her negative views of Eddie and would not be an asset to her in that regard,” Lawson’s letter read.

“There is certainly a misunderstanding, because there was never an offer,” said Lazarus, adding that Lawson was not re-hired because has school-teaching commitments in California, and therefore would have been unable to serve for the duration of the summer.

Multiple former and current CTAC board members also criticized the community center and council on Sunday. Nancy Grundman, who resigned from the board in August 2022, called for better representation, transparency, inclusion and accountability.

“We are so saddened to see that the CCC of today is silencing community voices and centralizing power and decision-making among a small, elite group on the CTAC board,” Grundman said.

Current board member Heather Quinn stated that she has felt excluded, and noted that she is one of three year-round town residents on the board.

“It is a group that I have felt consistently marginalized on. And to be honest, I have wondered at times if it’s because I lived in an affordable home in Chilmark instead of a second one,” she said.

Quinn also advocated for further discussion and collaboration to resolve people’s issues with CTAC, in place of moving ahead on the vote at town meeting.

Community center executive director Andrien on Sunday also spoke against FACT’s proposal and business plan for a town tennis committee.

“The proposal is not sound,” she said. “The expense figures contained in the plan are severely understated. It costs twice as much to staff the tennis program for the nine weeks in the summer as [FACT] have estimated for the whole year.’’

Lazarus and Andrien on Sunday also shared multiple steps that they had taken to better address community needs. These included establishing counselor-in-training and leadership programs for teenage workers, hiring a tennis operations manager to oversee scheduling, staffing, and procurement, and forming a capital improvement and maintenance committee to oversee facility improvements.

Andrien added that she is working on fixing pay issues in which boys were being paid higher than girls, and in which some counselors were being paid under minimum wage in 2021.

Andrien also said that she was open to creating a committee to meet the needs of the tennis community, and looking into providing tennis programming throughout the year.

Reached on Monday while at the community tennis courts, Stahl, who works every summer with the youth that take the tennis programs, said the debate has been divisive for the community.

“I just find it disappointing that — working here with kids, and afterschool with kids, and years of advocating for the kids — something like this has to be played out in our community,” he said.


  1. The most problematic thing I’ve read here is that girls were being paid less than boys and that some were making below minimum wage. How on earth does that happen??

  2. Wow…….this is not only an embarrassment to the town but the island in general. Such a First World problem. This article is juxtaposed with the story of the increasing homeless situation on island. Suck it up Chilmark Selectboard and show some leadership.

  3. Pay disparities between boys and girls = pretty gross. There is a lot wrong with this picture. And what I am hearing is a preponderance of typical issues that result from little local fiefdoms where a small pod of “usual suspects,” having established a power base, are loath to release control – it’s going on in a number of corners of island society, particularly in the Arts – and thus can’t hear the writing on the wall. As in, whether this FACT group is in the right or not, people are asking for a change in leadership at CTAC and a change in approach. When communications get this gnarly, the responsibility lies at the top of the organizational food chain.

  4. I was at the meeting on Sunday and i’m sure many people following this over the past couple of days will probably roll their eyes and say “Tennis?…first world problems”, but it’s more than tennis. It’s about democracy and fairness and a group of community members, both year round and seasonal, who have valuable input and are not being heard.

    If there were issues with the tennis pro in 2021 or 2022, then why wasn’t it handled at the time? And why does a controversial video, referencing “problematic behaviors” with implications of racism, get released 4 days before the vote? A video produced by a third party, in support of CTAC, and calling for a vote against the Friends of Community Tennis. A video which apparently aired without the approval of the CTAC board members despite them providing images of the CCC camp for it? It doesn’t add up.
    Why is it now all being dragged up as a tactic to try to harm him and a group of people in the community who have just been trying to be heard for months?
    Let’s have the truth about this – otherwise it can only be perceived as dirty diversion tactics for which someone should be held accountable.
    What happens to Chilmark tennis next is important …. It’s been a stepping stone to hundreds of kids who have come back to become coaches and camp counselors to the younger ones, to play tennis in high school and college all under the leadership of the pro who has been there for 25 years. That has to count for something.
    The easy decision amidst the confusion, would be to just vote “no” to Article 32 on Tuesday and go about your business, after all “It’s only tennis”. But what are you voting for? It sounds like even the CTAC board members are dropping like flies! If the president cant keep her board members “on board”, then it looks like there is a passionate alternative group who feel that they can do a better job at acting in the best interests of the community.

    Whatever the differences are – sort them out and let’s make sure the tennis/CCC is being run with transparency, integrity, and a broad representation of members who can work together.

  5. I am one of the board members who resigned. Despite the rumors, it had nothing to do with the board itself. It was a purely personal issue. For those who want some idea of what has caused much of the controversy, please go to the other article in this paper about the video, scroll down through the comments to the one from Kyle Williams, then follow the link he provides. It’s a bit long-winded but if you skip down ten paragraphs or so, you’ll come to the meat of the matter.
    If you really want to know, you’ll take the time to read it.

    • Please do as Dana suggests – except don’t skip a word of it. Everyone should carefully read this escalation of commitment by Kyle Williams – especially anyone who is considering retaining his firm for any reason. In my estimation, this letter made an ugly matter even uglier. Especially the part Dana is referencing. Eddie has the level of support that he does because of the character he has demonstrated to the Chilmark community for 25+ years – not because he is a White man. There are no “blind spots” in this discussion, and it is disingenuous to suggest that a person is morally deficient unless they set aside their individual support for a man gained by firsthand interaction over decades, in order to view some vague accusation of “disrespect” through the eyes of a disgruntled former employee that they have never met. I find it unseemly that Mr. Williams would cavalierly suggest that Eddie be cast aside in this manner. Chilmark owes Eddie something more than this – but what does it owe to Mr. Williams, Ms. Lapsley or Ms Lazarus?

      Be sure to read it all the way through, or you’ll miss the part at the end where he blames this warrant petition on a cabal of Chilmark Trump supporters.

      • I couldn’t hang with it til the end – really too long-winded, and I initially was starting to feel badly for the guy, after all the online pile-on in the Comments sections of the various news stories on this. But if, in fact, he defaulted to assigning “Trumpism” to the Chilmark community as a whole just because its demographic profile us overwhelmingly white, then to me – as a progressive independent generally supportive of social justice but turned off by militant P.C. and overwrought DEI initiatives that simplistically trash White people for fun (insert eyeroll) and profit (since DEI as an “industry”
        has apparently attracted its fair share of “diversity awareness” opportunists) – Mr Williams has painted himself into his own corner of racist bigotry and certainly of ignorance of who the Chilmark community is. He was clearly the wrong fit for whatever the mission was; and having read another article on Ms Lapsley, my takeaway is that outsider with no true connection to Chilmark in with its residents were brought in to “shame and blame” White people. Really ill advised – speaking as a native Vineyarder with lifelong ties to the Town. Thank you for alerting those if us who tried to hang in there with Mr Williams’ lengthy explanation – to offer him the benefit of the doubt re his motivations for the video – but could not make it to the end for his attempted smear of Trumpism against the Town.

  6. Thank you Dana – and thank you for your service on the board. I have read the “long-winded” letter to the community that Kyle writes – and I think the work he does with A Long Talk is admirable, but its a one sided argument pointing fingers and making assumptions, put out there to stir up the community, not unite it. This isn’t about the video but it certainly highlights poor judgement from those at the top who knew about it, and a a need for different representation.

  7. The local press hasn’t reported the root causes of this kerfuffle sufficiently for any of us commenting on it to benefit from a full understanding of root causes. From my offline search for perspective, it would appear that DEI trainers were brought in to school Chilmark in racial sensitivity after a threatened lawsuit over the well chronicled, truly disturbing incident at the CCC summer camp between the two White kids and the Black child. Then maybe tennus pro Stahl and the outside, literal “diversity hite” Ms Lapsley had a conflict (which has not been mentioned in the local news stories and was certainly not expressly clarified in Kyle Williams’ unfortunate video). So the lack of clarity on the initial fuse that litbthis fire is contributing to confusion and unhelpful acrimony – even between “friends”!

  8. “Each board member has experienced a great deal of pressure, questioning the board’s decisions, and dividing the board,” she said.

    I resigned from the Board of CTAC on Sunday after less than 2 months of service NOT becuase I felt any pressure from the community but specifically because I disagrees with its position and its tactics. The video, which had tacit support from Susan, was the last straw in a series of questionable decisions. It has been my position from the beginning of this process that CTAC should NOT manage the Tennis Courts and I hope Chilmark agrees.

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