Chilmark tennis players losing trust in community center

Some say they will not return this summer without longtime pro Eddie Stahl.

Eddie Stahl, front and center, gets a sendoff from Chilmark tennis players. —Courtesy of Jay Grossman

The decision to replace a longtime tennis pro in Chilmark has re-ignited tensions around the Chilmark Community Center, following a compromise reached at a packed town meeting in April.

Eddie Stahl, who taught Chilmarkers tennis for over 25 years, will not return this summer as part of the center’s programming, a decision reached by the nonprofit Chilmark Town Affairs Council, which manages the courts in the summer.

After the hiring announcement, some say they have lost faith in the council and will not be returning. Some members also say the hiring decision failed to respect the will of the community and the spirit of a compromise which was reached in April. 

The long-smoldering dispute is shaped along the lines of a clash between two groups. One is seeking more programs for year-round tennis players and the company of a beloved tennis pro, who residents came to admire for his laid-back style, straw sun-hats and occasional bare feet.

The other is the nonprofit that runs the courts in the summer, who say that their new hire will better address the needs of the community and proper court management as they introduce this season’s programming.

Amid the bickering over management styles, Jay Grossman, leader of the Friends and Associates of Chilmark Tennis (FACT), successfully proposed a new Community Center committee at town meeting that would produce a report on the courts’ management. Grossman’s FACT has sought more accountable leadership of the town-owned tennis courts at the center, and more tennis programs for year-round residents.

Grossman told The Times that his group was not informed in advance of the council’s decision to not bring back Stahl; he said that the Friends are now looking at alternatives for playing tennis.

Grossman also told The Times that a number of longtime Community Center supporters — including those who have raised funds and volunteered for the center — feel that their trust has been violated and the will of the community disregarded.

Stahl will be missed this summer, Grossman said. “It’s a true loss to the community for the decision not to have him back for [this] summer,” he said.

After the hiring announcement, tennis players gathered at the courts on Sunday for a potluck, sending Stahl off after his quarter-century as tennis pro. More than fifty people attended the sendoff, attendees said.

Thomas Ashe is one Community Center member who said he will not be returning this summer. He and his family have been active at the center for over three decades as members, fundraisers and advocates and watched a different culture emerge at the center, culminating in what he sees as an unfair decision to let Stahl go.

“We have decided that being at the [center] with this leadership is so toxic that we are scrambling to find alternatives,” Ashe said. “We want Eddie back where he belongs or we will not be returning.”

Town officials on the Community center committee, which began meeting this month, could not determine whether the council neglected the spirit of the town meeting vote. They said the vote created a committee to review management, but did not establish oversight of the council’s hiring decisions, and officials say their committee has no say in council hiring decisions.

“We really can’t get involved in hiring and personnel issues,” said ex officio member and town moderator Janet Weidner. “Eddie Stahl was an employee of CTAC, not the town … I don’t think we could make any recommendations in that regard.”

FACT supporter Josh Thomson told The Times that tennis players are looking forward to the pro’s next steps. “He is beloved enough that a new chapter could start. A lot of tennis people are waiting to see what he does next,” he said. Thomson plays tennis at the center with his family, but said he will not be returning this summer without Stahl.

The council’s announcement not to bring back Stahl stated that Sara Kemp will fill a newly created tennis operations director position. This job will consolidate the roles of adult tennis director (Stahl’s position last year), youth tennis director, and tennis shack manager. All tennis staff will report to Kemp.

“Sara is a lifelong tennis player and tennis programming professional, and she brings tremendous energy, organizational skill, and experience to the CCC [Chilmark Community Center] tennis program and our courts,” the announcement reads. “She has many years of leadership experience in both corporate and public school settings, and is deeply passionate about tennis.”

Community Center executive director Susan Andrien highlighted that Kemp would handle a new court reservation system and other responsibilities important to the community: “One of the things the community raised in the last couple years that we wanted to respond to is maintenance, oversight, and clarity. We prioritized making sure we had someone in a leadership position out on the courts and in the shack most of the time, definitely during all our primetime, that could manage our new online court reserve system — which we believe will make access more transparent and equitable.”

“These hiring decisions were based on the recommendation of the CCC hiring committee and the concurrence of the center’s board,” the announcement states. “They were not easy, and many considerations go into making a decision of change. We are confident that the community will be best served by these talented leaders.”

The release also acknowledges Stahl: “We recognize and appreciate the considerable contribution to the Chilmark community and its tennis program that Eddie Stahl has made. We gratefully acknowledge his service and dedication to the community.”

Andrien also told The Times that the center is at record high membership.

Stahl declined to comment on the hiring decision when reached by The Times.

Stahl’s rehiring was a hot topic surrounding town meeting, as some accused council president Suellen Lazarus of targeting him. Lazarus denied this the day before the meeting, saying she had worked every year to preserve his employment. However, Stahl told The Times she has been targeting him since council executive director Kiera Lapsley departed in 2023. Stahl said he was wrongly accused of orchestrating a letter-writing campaign against Lapsley after she intended to demote a junior tennis director.

Two months after town voters created the Community Center committee, it is holding its first meetings. Its goal is to give a report to the select board by January on the courts’ management.

The Community Center committee’s first meeting involved member introductions, establishing a meeting schedule, and identifying stakeholder groups.

Its members are Emily Bramhall, Linda Coutinho, Stephanie DeRosa, John Diamond, Dan Karnovsky, Hillary Noyes-Keene, Matthew Poole. Town moderator Janet Weidner appointed the committee and is a member ex officio.

“We want to hear from as many people, as many groups as we can,” Weidner told The Times. 

“In my mind the job of the committee is to kind of step back and take a look at the Community Center. … Our view is that the committee would hear from various stakeholder groups about what they want to see.”

“In talking to people in the last two months, and people stopping me everywhere, all sorts of ideas came up,” she said. One Chilmarker’s idea was that the Up-Island Council on Aging use the courts once weekly. Weidner says the committee might also recommend changes to the memorandum of understanding between the council and town, as well as more afterschool and summer programs.

The Community Center committee meets this Thursday at 5:15 pm at Chilmark town hall.


  1. As
    long-standing members and supporters of the CCC for over thirty years— (we participated, fundraised, donated and volunteered( one of us served as member of the CTAC), and all of our children attended and worked at the camp), count us as one of many families who can no longer support the CCC until there is a change of leadership at the CTAC.
    It is inconceivable that the leadership has disregarded and alienated the voices of the year round and seasonal residents.
    It is time to put COMMUNITY back into the Chilmark Center.
    Marcy Gringlas and Joel Greenberg

  2. Thank you Marcy. I would like to echo all of your points. I would also like to add that a community center that treats people as disposable has lost track of its purpose. Thank you to anyone who has hit a tennis ball with me and had a chat on those courts. You have all made my life better.

  3. I’ve said it once. I’ll say it again. Our town Leadership has let us down. Agreeing to an MOU that gives an entity access and control of our resources and deeply affects the lives of our community with no leverage or oversight? That is not good governance. The current CTAC group is a cabal dedicated to destroying a what was once an island treasure. It is completely out of touch with the reality and the people who live, work and play on the island. Why give this small group the power to affect so many?

  4. The tennis community at the Chilmark Community Center is much more than a bunch of tennis players. It is a kind, inclusive, supportive community that is welcoming to all and that culture of inclusivity, kindness and support starts from the top — from Eddie Stahl who has been the tennis professional there for over 25 years. During that time Eddie has mentored island kids and given back to the community in countless ways. Over 100 CCC members, island youth and CCC camper parents expressed their support of Eddie to CTAC but CTAC ignored their voices. As Marcy said, it is time to put COMMUNITY back into the Chilmark Center.

  5. As a relative newcomer to Martha’s Vineyard, it’s hard to imagine a more inclusive and welcoming institution than the Chilmark Community Center. And no one works harder to make that so than Eddie Stahl. I hope the Town Committee recognizes and keeps this in mind as it works to find out what went wrong here.

  6. The decision to replace Eddie Stahl is a disgrace. He has been the heart and soul of Chilmark tennis for decades, and CTAC’s unexplained decision to replace him ignores the voice of the tennis community — an arrogant decision by a board that is no longer accountable to the public it supposedly serves. The directors should be replaced, and the Chilmark tennis courts should be freed from their grip.

  7. I must say I’m confused as to whether anyone other than the handful of people who now run CTAC thinks the decision to not rehire Eddie is a good one. There have been a lot of comments on the articles describing the turmoil, and not one has been supportive of CTAC’s decision. A comment was made on CCC’s Instagram about the new tennis person which said “Bring Eddie Back,” and that got more likes than almost any CCC post as far as I can tell (and certainly more than the announcement). I too have donated to and participated in CCC events over the years. I will not be doing so going forward (as long as CTAC leadership remains the same). The decision to not rehire Eddie seems personal and vindictive – not to mention uneconomic (I wonder how much it’s costing the CCC to provide housing for the new pro (whom I also feel badly for, as she’s walking into a mess)). It should be reversed.

  8. I have been a tennis member at the CCC, and my family and I have been active over 3 decades as members, fundraisers and advocates of the CCC. This current decision by a select few not to rehire (thus firing) Eddie Stahl our beloved tennis pro of 27 years is a tragic mistake for this community. It has far reaching implications for hundreds of people who come or live here year round, besides being a crushing blow to Mr Stahl and his children. There has been no explanation for this action. Months ago a group was formed after a huge outcry to give a formal voice to this discussion and without regard for the energy of the group, the powers to be thought it wise to move ahead and take action against the will of the citizens of chilmark and let Eddie go. Stunning disregard against the vast majority of the town. I have not spoken to one person yet that thought this was the way to go. We played all last week with Eddie at the helm with 30 to 50 people each day. We are a close cohesive group. Several of the people I play with have been here for generations and have kids and grandchildren at the camp. I personally have four grandchildren who have been campers and who stop by the tennis courts daily to say “hi Pa”. This has been a highlight of my life to have them come say hi and watch adults and kids having a ball. They were also in the tennis programs. This crossing of the generations is so important to the fabric of family and community life and why we are here in Martha’s Vineyard in the first place and that dream has now be quashed. That will not be happening any more. We have all decided that this was a bridge too far and are making alternate plans for the summer. We have decided that being at the CCC with this leadership is so toxic that we are scrambling to find alternatives. I stopped by the tennis courts on yesterday and today during prime time to find the courts deserted. I took pictures and video. Not one player. Eddie Stahl brings fun and does it in and out of season. I come all times during the year and always find him on the courts and hosting clinics and games. He has created a family atmosphere and is gracious, generous and the most inclusive person I know. It saddens me so to think he will not be an influence on my grandchildren in the coming summers. This decision will also affect businesses in town adversely but the board seems not to care about any of that. We want Eddie back where he belongs or we will not be returning.

  9. I came to this island 12 years ago to create a home and family with my new husband. That is when I decided to take up tennis. I was extremely intimidated as I knew there were many very talented players. However, under Eddie Stahl’s direction he created a space for me to feel comfortable and confident enough to learn amongst all of these players. Not once did I ever feel like I was inconveniencing someone because my game was not as good as theirs. This is because of the way Eddie Stahl guides the play, he allows for every player, regardless of their abilities, to find a space where they can feel supported and improve their game play. All are welcome and everyone out there feels it. Every player thrives under that leadership. It is like a true family. I am crushed to know that someone so instrumental in bringing so many different types of people together, who has created such a welcoming and open and productive space has lost their livelihood that they have put their heart and soul into. I am forever grateful for the time spent on the courts with Eddie Stahl.

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