Aquinnah candidates speak to voters

Aquinnah's town election is May.

Jannette Vanderhoop, left, and Tom Murphy are competing for a seat on the Aquinnah select board. —Nikeya Tankard

Aquinnah voters go to the polls May 16 and there will be a contested race for one seat on the town’s select board.

Jannette Vanderhoop, a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), is challenging two-term incumbent Tom Murphy.

The two candidates took part in a forum on Wednesday, April 24, at town hall, organized by the Vineyard chapter of the League of Women Voters.

Murphy — in his opening statement — spoke about his career serving as an U.S. Army Lieutenant, an advisor to a variety of financial firms, and as the founder and past chairman of workflow platform, EstateWorks.

Murphy said he and his wife moved to Martha’s Vineyard officially in 2015, after decades of seasonal residency. “When I came back, I wanted to get involved in the community that I love,” he said.

Since his move, Murphy has been involved in the lighthouse committee and the town planning board, aside from serving six years on the select board.

Murphy cited initiatives surrounding town finances and negotiations as major accomplishments of his tenure. In 2021, Murphy was involved with the creation of an infrastructure committee responsible for the renovations at the Aquinnah police department and HVAC installations in Aquinnah town offices.

“We were able to accomplish a lot with the $250,000 that we asked for […] We’re going to ask for another $250,000 at the next meeting, next month,” he said.

Vanderhoop followed, delivering her opening statement. She began with a greeting in both Wampanoag and English, and established her ties to the Vineyard as a born-and-raised Islander and Aquinnah Wampanoag member.

Vanderhoop has worked as a gardener, business owner, artist, and educator. “I wear many hats,” she said of her career experience. She also spoke about her three years serving as director of the Aquinnah Cultural Center.

A recurring question throughout the candidate forum meeting was fiscal stability and affordability in Aquinnah.

Vanderhoop said she would like to make Aquinnah more of a “cultural tourist destination.”

“Tourism exists on Martha’s Vineyard,” she said. “There’s millions of dollars coming into this Island, and we want to get it up here. So how do we get it up here?” she began.

“We have to get creative, and it’s going to be up through affordable housing, it’s going to be through tax breaks and abatements for year round residents. It’s going to be maybe incentivizing the seasonal people to have auxiliary dwellings and add value to their property that way,” she explained.

Murphy identified what he believes is a leading fiscal issue for Aquinnah: a substantial amount of town-owned land that isn’t taxed.

“When I was asked how many properties the town owned, I thought there would be 10 or 15 or 20 parcels. The town owns 56 parcels of land. Those are 56 parcels of land that are not generating tax revenue.” he explained.

“I want to form a blue ribbon committee […] that’s one way of getting some of the land that’s not paying taxes today back on the tax roll,” he said.

Murphy also proposes that the town continue to take advantage of outside opportunities, citing the Netflix filming in Aquinnah this summer as an example.

“We have to figure out how to generate more income […] this is a great destination, which is obviously one of the most picturesque places in the world. So maybe we could embellish that in the offseason,” he said.

As questions concluded, candidates were invited to deliver their closing statements.

“I am culturally appropriate and sensitive,” Vanderhoop said. “I will work with anybody. I am humbled and peaceful. I come to you as a young person who’s ready to step into this role.”

Murphy said, “I love what I’m doing. I enjoy what I’m doing. I’m busy. I’m involved. I’m fortunate that I have a legal background and have some experience on boards. I would like to serve for another term.”




  1. So excited to see young, smart and invested Tribal members stepping up to serve Aquinnah. With gratitude to Mr Murphy, I hope Aquinnah voters will support Janette Vanderhoop.

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