Kerry Scott Wins Office as Incumbents Stumble in Key Oak Bluffs Races

By CHRIS BURRELL

Signaling sweeping change in the political leadership of Oak Bluffs and delivering major upsets, voters yesterday ousted three high-profile incumbents.

Kerry Scott handily beat one-term selectman Todd Rebello by a margin of 164 votes; the final tally was 776-612. Vincent Chestnut mustered only 33 votes in the three-way race.

Linda Marinelli ended Joe Alosso's tenure on the board of health, narrowly defeating him 721-662.

And political newcomer David Morris Jr. pulled in 724 votes yesterday, dashing Tim Dobel's hopes for a fifth term on the school committee. Mr. Dobel garnered 611 votes.

"I'm humbled and honored, honestly," Ms. Scott told the Gazette last night as she celebrated her victory at the house of Joan and Jack Wuerth. She made reference to the years-long controversy over the Down Island Golf Club: "This was certainly not a referendum on golf, but people believed what I said."

She viewed her win as a message from voters. "There's been a huge disconnect. People have felt disengaged from public officials," she said.

Turnout at the polls was nearly 47 per cent of registered voters - 1,440 cast votes out of a total of 3,095 registered. There were more than 200 absentee ballots.

In other races, Cheryll Sashin narrowly edged out the other two candidates for tax collector. She came away with 502 votes. Roger Wey, a longtime selectman, tallied 483 votes, and Eleanor Amaral trailed with 422 votes.

Incumbent park commissioner Richard Combra Jr. and incumbent cemetery commissioner James Maseda both won reelection.

The race for selectman offered voters stark choices. During the battle over the proposed golf course in the southern woodlands, Ms. Scott and Mr. Rebello staked out distinctly different turf.

Mr. Rebello sided with Connecticut developer Corey Kupersmith and then backed efforts to have the town withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

But Ms. Scott campaigned to keep Oak Bluffs in the MVC and during her campaign she blasted selectmen for behaving "recklessly" when they advocated leaving the protection of the regional planning agency.

Vocal about his efforts to cut back the number of mopeds rented in town, Mr. Rebello also took credit for what he described as a central role in helping broker the resolution to the southern woodlands impasse - the agreement by Mr. Kupersmith to sell 190 acres of the woodlands to the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank.

Clearly, Mr. Rebello's message fell short of convincing the majority of voters. Three years ago, he came into office for the first time by a margin of 55 votes, beating incumbent John Leite 3rd.

Mr. Rebello did not return a telephone call for comment last night.

News of the election results traveled fast last night as assistant town clerk Laura Johnston posted unofficial results shortly after 7 p.m. when the polls closed at the Oak Bluffs School.

"The town, our finances, the way the board is conducting itself, all those things led me to believe that folks in town were fairly pleased with how town was being run," said selectmen chairman Richard Combra. "It's a bit baffling to see incumbents removed in the manner they were."

"What a surprise," said Paul Strauss, conservation commission member, Dukes County commissioner and a member of the MVC.

But underneath the initial shock, there were some insights.

Mr. Combra suggested that the anti-golf faction played a role in Mr. Rebello's ouster. "The folks who chose to vote that Oak Bluffs remain in the commission have stayed together in some organized manner," he said. "That's just a perception I have. The folks who were in favor of golf have gone on about their business."

But Mr. Strauss picked up on the theme raised by Ms. Scott. "People wanted to retake this town," he said. "There's been a group of people who tried to run this town for the benefit of a few and not for all the residents."

The race for board of health may have hinged on a similar sentiment. The incumbent, Mr. Alosso, came under fire this year when ethical questions were raised about how he secured permits to build a four-bedroom house on a small lot in town.

Mrs. Marinelli made no reference to her opponent's political troubles when she spoke with the Gazette last night, but she returned to her campaign refrain - honesty.

"I don't approve of people telling stories that aren't true," she said. "I'm ecstatic."

Three years ago, Mrs. Marinelli tried to unseat Mr. Alosso but fell far short, then netting 574 votes compared to his 774 votes.

Reached by telephone last night, Mr. Alosso wouldn't talk about the election results. "I'm enjoying a wonderful dinner in my house with my family and friends," he said.

As for the school committee race, Mr. Dobel's defeat came after a difficult year, not at the Oak Bluffs School, but at the regional high school, where Mr. Dobel has been chairman of the school committee.

Neither Mr. Morris nor Mr. Dobel could be reached for comment last night, but Mr. Morris had mounted a full attack on school leaders for how they handled the events that unfolded over the last year, namely the theft of equipment and school funds by a culinary arts teacher.

Whether voters were motivated by dissatisfaction with how Mr. Dobel behaved in the aftermath of the high school scandal, they delivered a stinging message.

Mr. Dobel has served the school committee for 12 years. Mr. Morris jumped into the race only when he heard no one else was running against the incumbent.

Mrs. Sashin, winner of the tax collector race, had led efforts to convince voters last May to withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission. Yesterday she defeated Mr. Wey, the one selectman who took an anti-golf position and urged Oak Bluffs to stay in the MVC.

In the race for park commissioner, incumbent Richard Combra Jr. won reelection with 627 votes. Mark Alwardt collected 388, and James Dorsey finished third in the vote tally with 307.

Mr. Dorsey also could not unseat Mr. Maseda in the race for cemetery commissioner. The incumbent easily held his seat with a 842-393 vote.

In uncontested races, the following candidates were elected to office: David Richardson, moderator; Priscilla Sylvia, land bank commissioner; Thad Harshbarger, finance committee; Richard Mavro, constable; David Oliveira, constable; John Bradford, planning board; Robert Iadicicco, wastewater commissioner; Michael deBettencourt, water district commissioner; Duncan Ross, water district moderator.

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