Tisbury Prepares for Key Election in Board of Selectmen Contest
By JOSHUA SABATINI
Facing plans for big changes in Tisbury, town voters will decide next week whether experience or a fresh look will have a contested seat on the board of selectmen.
Denys Wortman said a number of people asked him to run and he decided to do just that. "The town should have a choice," said Mr. Wortman, who is running against incumbent Thomas Pachico.
The Gazette spoke to the two candidates this week and discussed personalities, the future and the town's prevailing issues, including the two major projects impending in town, a sewage treatment system and a Main street improvement plan.
Mr. Pachico, 49, has served for one three-year term on the board of selectmen. He was born and raised on the Island, sat on the board of health for nine years and continues to serve as the town's health agent, a position he has held for nearly a decade.
Asked what he brings to the job, Mr. Pachico said, "Common sense and I am not afraid to tell it like it is. I do not play games. It saves time, money and energy."
Mr. Pachico, a father of four and a grandfather, also sits on the sewage advisory committee and the land bank advisory committee.
During his three-year term, Mr. Pachico has played a significant role in Steamship Authority (SSA) issues, including the pending legislation that could alter the SSA board of governors, and held a key role in the planning of the new wastewater treatment facility.
"There are a lot of things that need to be finished, and that is basically why I am running again," said Mr. Pachico. "I don't think this is the time to change players with the SSA legislation on the table, and the major role I played in that. And the same thing with the sewage project. If it was something I was remotely involved in it wouldn't matter. But I am intricately involved in those things."
The owner of a private septic inspection company - not in Tisbury - Mr. Pachico is the only selectman on the three-member board with experience in construction and excavation.
"There are going to be a lot of problems [with the sewer project] that will need to be figured out. My expertise in that field is useful," said Mr. Pachico.
During Mr. Pachico's term, the housing committee has taken a more active role in town affairs. Mr. Pachico said he wants to further involve the housing committee and work to create more affordable housing in town.
Mr. Pachico is sympathetic to residents concerned about the increasing tax rate. "Sure I am concerned. I pay taxes, too. I juggle every month to pay my bills," said Mr. Pachico. "I know what everyone is talking about."
Mr. Pachico said he understands business concerns about the installation of the sewer system in the downtown. The entire sewage project is projected to be complete by May 2004. Construction will begin in October. To help businesses cope with the disruption, Mr. Pachico said he is talking with the businesses and can possibly ease the economic impact by planning the installation to avoid the busy holiday seasons.
One component of the Main Street Project, a plan to make improvements downtown when the roadways are dug for the sewage system, involves putting the wires on Main street underground. Mr. Pachico supports the change, but said he wants to see what the town's financial status is a year from now.
As for the other components of the Main Street Project, Mr. Pachico supports a close scrutiny. "We need to look at it more. The majority of the sidewalks in the downtown area do not have to come out," said Mr. Pachico. "Taxpayers need to know what this will cost."
Mr. Pachico played a key role in changing the leadership of the police department this year. He speaks highly of its new leader, acting chief Theodore Saulnier. "[The acting chief] is up for appointment on June 30," said Mr. Pachico. "I have no reason to think he won't do a good job and be the leading candidate for that position. I think it has been a positive change. The change in leadership had to be done."
As for the size of the police department, Mr. Pachico said he plans to sit down with his fellow selectmen and talk to the acting chief in the near future to "see exactly what is needed on a year-round basis."
For three years, Mr. Pachico has held ongoing discussions with the SSA to improve the town's ferry terminal. Some improvements to the terminal's operations will be made for this summer season.
Mr. Pachico said the relationship between the town and boat line has improved with the new CEO and the new Island SSA representative. He plans to meet with the other Cape and Island towns to develop a clear vision for the SSA's future.
Mr. Pachico said he goes to all the SSA meetings, and often is the only selectman from the Island in attendance.
Mr. Pachico took some heat this year for altering the pay scale for moorings in the harbor. Mr. Pachico said the town takes on the responsibility of maintaining the harbor, including dredging, additional pump out times, bathrooms and rubbage service. "The only way to recoup what our investments are is to create additional taxes or through mooring fees. The mooring fees should just cover what it costs us, and not be subsidized by the taxpayers," he said.
Mr. Pachico said he feels his first term as selectman has been a success, and he feels credit is due in part to the municipal employees. "Thankfully, we have good town employees who banded together and helped," he said. "It hasn't been an easy three years."
Mr. Wortman, 64, said, "I am a people person. I like to bring people together and work toward building a consensus."
When pressed for the reason why he would make a better selectman than his opponent, Mr. Wortman simply said, "That is up for the voters to decide."
His parents purchased a home on the Island - the same home on Hines Point where he currently resides with his wife, Marilyn - in 1933. His father, a newspaper cartoonist, decided when the war broke out in 1941 that the Vineyard would be a good place to live year-round. That began Mr. Wortman's childhood on the Island. He attended the Tisbury School, "when the Tisbury School was a high school," and was graduated in 1957. One memory he is fond of from his schoolboy days is playing on the basketball team and contending against the other towns on the Island - "a very good rivalry."
After college, Mr. Wortman resided in Sudbury with his wife and three children. In 1961, his mother sold the Vineyard home to former harbor master Tom Hale. When the house was for sale for the first time in 34 years, Mr. Wortman bought it and three years ago returned to the Island full-time.
Like most Tisbury residents, Mr. Wortman is concerned about the tax rate and the economy overall.
"We are going to face some real tough economic times. State money is being cut back. We have a slower business environment. On the high end, rentals are down. This is all money that comes into the Island and fuels the economy. This is one thing that definitely concerns me," said Mr. Wortman.
For more than 30 years, Mr. Wortman has worked as a stock broker, and he believes his expertise in the financial field can serve the town well.
"Cut waste wherever you can find it. We have to be very careful where we spend our money," said Mr. Wortman. "The alternative is not to spend it and be creative. But there is no magic silver bullet to say, ‘Here, this is the easy way out.'"
In March, the Tisbury police department saw a change in leadership and a debate continues as to how many officers the department needs.
He believes in having as small a department as possible - "for the sake of taxes - but not to sell out on safety," he added.
"I would like to see a very constructive relationship between the selectmen and the police department. Whenever you hire a leader, you put him in charge and you let him do the job and you don't try to micromanage him. If he wants input he should come to you. And he should feel comfortable coming to you, knowing you are supporting him. But not be on his case every day," said Mr. Wortman.
Similarly, Mr. Wortman said the Steamship Authority management team is going through a leadership change. "Here again, we have a new CEO," said Mr. Wortman. "Let's sit back and see how he performs."
For the overall political picture in town, Mr. Wortman thinks a change in attitude can make Tisbury a better place. "If you don't want to support [a political figure], you have your chance at election time to support somebody else," he said. "But support those who are in. Work with them. Do what you can to help them. I hear a lot of negativity and I would like to turn it around so there is more of a positive feeling."
Mr. Wortman has a new idea for the town-neighborhood forums. He would like residents in neighborhoods to gather together and discuss any issues and reach a consensus. He would like to attend the forums and believes the forums can improve the political atmosphere and the policy making process.
Mr. Wortman's concern for the Main Street Project, a plan that will alter the town's infrastructure in a number of ways, rests heavily on finances.
On putting Main street wires underground, Mr. Wortman said, it is best to proceed with caution. "Is it worth spending a million dollars at this time? We are putting the conduits in, we can wait on doing the poles. And I think we should wait … definitely wait at least a year, two years," he said. "We have got to see how the economic times are. So that if we do it, we are not jacking up taxes."
Mr. Wortman supports the choice of concrete for the sidewalks in downtown, but wants them built as simply as possible. As to the concept of a visitor center: "I am not in favor of the visitor center. We do not need to spend big money on a visitor center," said Mr. Wortman.
The other large project in town, the sewage project, is going to have a heavy impact on the downtown businesses in its first year. "Try to make it as easy as possible for the businesses," said Mr. Wortman. "We can have a campaign to support our businesses because they will be having a tough time. When things are tough, you do your best to help people."
With high taxes and the challenging economic times, most every resident is concerned about affordable housing in Tisbury.
"I would like to do whatever I can to help in that area. It is going to be tough. We should do all we can to work out a plan. This should be done with the planning board. I would challenge the planning board to work hard and I will work with them. We have to plan; if we don't plan we end up reacting. And when you are reacting you are putting Bandaids on it," said Mr. Wortman.
Mr. Wortman was introduced to town politics over the past year with a seat on the Tisbury finance committee. He is also president of the board for Martha's Vineyard Community Television and was instrumental in creating its facility at the regional high school, which will be open by September.
Tisbury town elections are set for Tuesday, May 7, with polls open from noon to 8 p.m. at the American Legion Hall.