Robert Fynbo, a 49 year-old carpenter from Chappaquiddick, remembers the moment he decided to run for selectman. It was last December following the puffback incident at the Edgartown library, when oily furnace soot coated books and computers and forced the library to set up temporary headquarters in the Edgartown town hall.
“The library was where I first noticed how bad things were,” said Mr. Fynbo this week, sitting on one of the reading seats in the library’s temporary digs. He had with him a thick file containing hundreds of pages notated with dozens of pink and yellow tabs — his research on the position of selectman.
Previously the owner of two software companies, Mr. Fynbo had been planning to devote his free time to working on the computers at the library where his wife, Felicia Cheney, is director, when the accident put the computer systems and the rest of the building out of commission.
Thus Mr. Fynbo found himself with a block of free time to launch a campaign he had not planned to embark upon for another two years. At the annual town election next Thursday he will challenge three-term incumbent Margaret Serpa for her seat.
If elected Mr. Fynbo promises to change what he sees as poor communication between selectmen and their constituents.
“It can be very discouraging and frustrating to interact with the selectmen’s office. Sometimes people feel like their idea is or question isn’t worth bothering them over. In some cases, a lot of people feel like they just don’t care,” he said, adding:
“Right out of the gate, I will make regular visits to town departments and the various board meeting and keep abreast of what’s going on. The last thing I want to do is micromanage any department, I want them to know I am there to support them. For, for instance. once a month from 6 to 7 p.m. on a Tuesday, I could be sitting in one of the chairs in the library, [which would create] a comfortable way to come forward and speak to a selectman.”
On his campaign Web site (bobfynbo.com), which he updates regularly, Mr. Fynbo has pledged to only stay in office for two terms, and is anxious to define himself against what he calls the current administration’s “good old-boy” arrangement.
“Five or six individuals have run the town for 30 years,” he said this week, “And some of these [changes] are just a hand-off of power. Mike [Donoroma] has had the shortest term, and he replaced Ted Morgan who had been in I think since they stopped whaling in Edgartown.”
As for whether Mr. Fynbo’s criticism of the Edgartown selectmen is general or especially directed at Mrs. Serpa, it is a bit of both.
“We need a general change in how it operates,” he said, “but of the three her communication skills are the least effective.”
But he is also quick to point out that it is not personal. “I have nothing against Margaret Serpa,” he said. “As far as I know she’s a wonderful person, but I think I can do a better job than she can.”
Mr. Fynbo sees improvements to downtown Edgartown as a long-term, high-priority project. “From trying to do a farmers’ market much like they do in West Tisbury, to helping control the traffic,” he said, “we desperately need to address the downtown. Go out on a Monday afternoon and try and find a Diet Coke to save your life. Compare Oak Bluffs in the winter. They’ve managed to maintain a vibrant downtown and their parking is every bit just as bad, but they’ve managed to do it because it’s been a priority.”
The surprise of the campaign for Mr. Fynbo is that he feels it has become personal.
“We have lost almost 70 signs to damage and theft,” said Mr. Fynbo, referring to the unusually large number of placards dotting the Edgartown landscape this year. He keeps track of the signs with a map on his Web site. “Sometimes it was aggressive enough that it involved personal property damage. It’s been very grueling,” he said.
Regardless, he said the campaign will have been worthwhile whatever the outcome.
“Either way I win,” he said. “If I get the job I get to take a shot at the things I want to do. Otherwise, at least democracy got pushed for a change.”