Chilmark candidates debate the issues

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Chilmark residents go to the polls on Wednesday, April 24 for the annual town election.

Among the contested races, Jeffrey Maida and William Meegan are vying for one seat on the town’s select board.

Earlier this month, community members were invited to the Chilmark community center to hear from the candidates for a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Martha’s Vineyard; the debate was moderated by the League’s Deborah Medders.

During the forum, Maida — a longtime manager at the Net Result — established himself as a “lifelong” resident of Chilmark. “I have experienced firsthand the importance of dedicated and committed town leadership,” he said.

He spoke of his family history and his personal experiences growing up on the Island. He said that “giving back” to his community is a consistent initiative, from volunteering at the fire department from the age of 16 and up until his 30’s. He is also the current chair of the town’s harbor advisory committee, an organization he has been a member of for 12 years.

“When elected, I will continue in honoring the foundation that has successfully made our town what it is today,” he said.

Maida’s priorities fall in Menemsha, regarding dock and harbor upkeep and traffic management, as well as finding ways to utilize the Chilmark community center. Maida said “I’m doing my best to learn more about the housing and the farms […] I’m talking to boards, trying to educate myself more on these topics.”

In terms of his leadership, Maida said “I will always be accessible and willing to listen to your comments and concerns.”

“My leadership style and personal integrity are characterized by a steady hand, respect, and quiet efficiency which reflect my values in both to serve you,” he said.

William Meegan, a retired contractor, followed. Despite not being a born-and-raised Chilmark resident, Meegan said that he’s “been blessed with the opportunity and the ability to make Chilmark my home.”

Meegan then spoke of his involvement in the town, particularly his leadership on the Chilmark planning board where he has served for 10 years, and five as the chair. “I feel that the town benefited from my service,” he said.

Meegan’s priorities concern cooperation and traffic management. “I’m always thinking about improving our lives. How can we do that? Slow down,” he said.
“I hold myself to a high level of accountability and love working with others in a spirit of cooperation and light heartedness,” he said of his leadership. “I believe in transparency, listening to others, talking about their point of view, positive cooperation, and coming to an agreement where everybody is heard,”

A question from the crowd regarded conflict-resolution skills that candidates have, citing the Chilmark tennis court debate as an example of a major challenge the town faces.

Maida replied, “I certainly think it is important to have these two groups and the town solve the situation.”

“If we have to get the egos out of the way, let’s roll up our sleeves and sit down and do that,” Meegan said. “This is what’s at stake: the harmony of this summer community and the Winter community. It’s a longtime relationship that needs to sustain and get along.”

This discussion was followed by a question regarding climate change and its impacts on Chilmark.

“I just try to be mindful of my consumption and conserve,” Meegan said. “The culture [of Chilmark] is an important thing that needs to evolve; we need to develop ways to try to adapt to the changing climate.”

Maida cited the Chilmark climate change committee, stating that work is already underway when it comes to considering the climate. “There are committees and groups that are already working on steps to take and procedures to talk about and discuss moving forward.”

The candidates also spoke more specifically to the climate issues Chilmark faces, particularly poor water quality in waterways.

“I strongly advocate that we keep away the nitrogen that is ending up in the ponds that adds to this,” Meegan advised.

Maida assured voters that again, work is being done, citing the Great Pond Foundation, the town’s board of health, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and the local conservation commission as groups that are trying to address the issue. “I don’t know if anyone has a real answer or a solution at this particular time — but when they have variables, they’ll figure it out.”

Another hot topic of the night was the aging population of those involved in town government. As demonstrated by questions posed by the audience, Chilmark voters are concerned about the aging population of Chilmark and the lack of involvement among the younger generation in town government.

Maida began, “The town has always been run pretty much on a volunteer basis. People commit the time they can,” he said.

Candidates also spoke to the connections between town demographics and town engagement based on housing opportunities.

“The town is currently in the process of joining affordable housing,” Maida said. “We are trying to do what we can to help families live in this town,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there’s only so much we can do at this point — we need to think of other ways to create housing.”

Meegan said, “This problem is endemic across every community, wherever you go.”