Voters Name Cynthia Mitchell as West Tisbury Town Assessor

By IAN FEIN

Voters in West Tisbury returned a former selectman to elected office last night, naming Cynthia Mitchell to a one-year seat on the town board of assessors.

Mrs. Mitchell outpaced rival Cynthia Riggs 245-189 in the special town election.

"It's nice to be back," said Mrs. Mitchell, who previously served 12 years as a selectman and 17 years as town treasurer. "I appreciate the support of the voters and I look forward to a good year on the board," she added.

Voter turnout was relatively light, with roughly 21 per cent of registered voters coming out to cast ballots on a warm spring day. But both candidates said they were pleased with the turnout, considering the fact that it was the only race on the ballot.

Selectmen called the special election to fill the remaining year on the three-year term vacated by longtime assessor Raymond Houle, who resigned in February after more than 20 years on the board. Ms. Mitchell had been appointed temporarily to the seat by selectmen and assessors two months ago.

Ms. Riggs said last night that she was disappointed that she did not win, but she offered to help.

"We had a lot of thoughts in common, and as Cindy's loyal opponent I will do anything I can to help her," she said.

For her part, Mrs. Mitchell pledged to make good on her campaign promises and said she plans to seek reelection to the board at the annual town election next year.

"I hope to earn the confidence of the voters because one year is likely not enough," Mrs. Mitchell said.

The special election comes in a year of heightened scrutiny on the West Tisbury assessors with the much-watched Graham tax case that now awaits a ruling from the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board. The case, which among other things challenges the methods and practices of the West Tisbury assessors for determining property values, has attracted the attention of assessors across the commonwealth.

Mrs. Mitchell said she viewed the results of yesterday's election, combined with the close three-way race for another seat on the assessors at the annual town election last month, as a sign that voters are unhappy with the status quo.

"Some change is in order," Mrs. Mitchell said.