Two candidates for Tisbury selectman share passion for a public service and love for the character of the town, but differ on the details.

Incumbent selectman Melinda Loberg is being challenged for her seat by James Rogers. The election is Tuesday, May 9. Polls are open from noon to 8 p.m. at the town emergency services facility.

Mrs. Loberg, who recently turned 70, is running for her second term, a campaign promise she made her first time around.

“The first term is a learning curve,” she said in an interview this week. “The town doesn’t benefit until you serve the second term.”

Over her first term, she worked on the Lagoon Pond bridge project, initiated a parking committee, developed a yearly planning strategy and helped to bring the Department of Public Works under the purview of the selectmen.

Prior to serving as selectman, Mrs. Loberg spent about 12 years on the finance committee. She was an original member of the Tashmoo management committee and the harbor management committee and has served on the wastewater planning committee since it started. She has also volunteered as an EMT.

Before devoting her retirement to public service, she was a family therapist, mediator and crisis counselor.

She grew up as a summer kid on the Island, staying at her grandfather’s small shack on Lake Tashmoo. She counts those summers toward her dedication to the waterways in Tisbury.

Incumbent selectman Melinda Loberg seeks a second term. — Mark Lovewell

As a selectman, Mrs. Loberg has been involved with several initiatives to boost the health of coastal ponds, including applying for grants for a new pilot septic system, exploring permeable reactive barriers and expanding the sewer system.

“The numbers people hear about trying to sewer our way out of this problem is so mind-boggling we have to look for alternatives that are affordable,” she said. “This is not an one-size-fits-all solution. We’ve known right from the very beginning sewering isn’t the total answer, and neither are any of the other things.”

Mrs. Loberg also sees the potential for a vibrant downtown and said she thinks the business districts are on the brink of great success, backed by an growing economic spirit. Vineyard Haven boasts the Island’s first cultural district, she said. The center of town is walkable, with everything from a grocery store to home goods, clothing and gifts.

“I recognize that people are alarmed when they see empty store fronts . . . I’m only aware of one place in Tisbury that isn’t currently under a lease, at least on Main street,” she said. Projects to spruce up Beach Road, sewer the State Road business district and bring the Martha’s Vineyard Museum to Vineyard Haven will all add to an invigorated business community, she said.

Mrs. Loberg supports allowing restaurants to serve liquor because of the benefit to business owners, but draws the line at bars or package stores.

“I would really resist having bars in town. I support restaurants, because culturally people are drinking mixed drinks,” she said. “It seemed like restaurants here were twisting themselves into pretzels to make a mixed drink out of wine or champagne. I don’t think it will really impact the nature of the town more than beer and wine has.”

Serving as the selectmen’s liaison to the planning board, Mrs. Loberg said future plans to allow more affordable apartments and guest houses built on private property may tackle the affordable housing issue without large new constructions.

“I think it’s really smart. The resources are already there,” she said. “And there are other reasons for doing it — there’s an aging population who will need home care.”

She is not enthusiastic about the Kuehn’s Way affordable housing project because it is situated far away from the center of town, against the principals of smart growth. Her support for the project is now contingent on the safety of the neighbors’ wells.

“It boils down to can we find a viable wastewater treatment process that guarantees that the neighborhood wells will not be contaminated,” she said. “Thank goodness there is a permitting process in place that is equipped to examine these things.”

She supports keeping the Tisbury School at the current location as the town looks to renovate or rebuild its aging school facility.

“Primarily because it is in a population center where there is a lot of kids,” she said. “I don’t like the idea of putting it on the edge of town.”

As for school spending, she’s interested in exploring alternative assessment methods for the regional districts that will lower costs for Tisbury tax payers

“It requires a shift in philosophy. We’re all in this together as an Island, educating the kids,” she said. “I think there’s a wider conversation to be had.”

James (Jimmy) Rogers, an electrician, is running with the belief that Tisbury needs to focus on long-term planning and subsidizing the business districts. A third-generation Islander, Mr. Rogers has been a member of the town fire department for 44 years. He’s also served on the finance committee, the board of health, the zoning board of appeals and the personnel board. For eight years he was executive director of the Massachusetts Board of State Examiners of Electricians.

Mr. Rogers turns 65 in October and will be required by state law to step down from the fire department, so he decided to run for office.

“I had thought about it for a long time. I think I have a lot to offer between being in the town all my life and my municipal experience at a local level and my municipal experience at a state level,” he said. “I have a lot of ideas about how we can help commerce in Tisbury and ways of getting things done in the town with the least possible impact on the taxpayer.”

He thinks the town should improve its appearance, but the burden cannot be placed on property owners.

James Rogers wants to trade firefighting for a selectman's seat. — Mark Lovewell

“I’m very open to something like tax incentives for property owners to fix up their properties,” he said. “To entice new businesses into town, maybe tax incentives for new businesses. Give them a structure tax rate that starts out less and over a period of two or three years builds up and give them time to build up their business. I think it’s important for the town to partner with the business community.”

The selectmen could also be more receptive to tour buses and other businesses that bring people into town, he said. He envisions cultural events and town-sponsored evening events to liven up the streets and attract visitors.

When it comes to allowing restaurants to serve liquor, Mr. Rogers said the issue is out of his hands. If it passes at the ballot box, he said strong enforcement of the regulations should be key, and that bars or package stores should not be allowed.

“I’m not certain that the sale of hard alcohol will have the total positive effect of bringing business to the restaurants, “he said. “For their sake I hope it does.”

While Mr. Rogers wants to see healthy ponds and waterways, he is skeptical of new nitrogen regulations written by the board of health. He worries they unfairly target new homeowners and will keep young people from building houses in town.

“A bigger concern I have is road runoff, I think that’s a much bigger concern for our ponds than the residential septic systems are,” he said. “There’s no question that the road runoff goes directly into the waterways.”

When it comes to affordable housing, Mr. Rogers said he remembers standing up at town meeting in the 1990s to back an effort to amend the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank so that 50 per cent of the organization’s money would go toward affordable housing

“That motion failed miserably,” he said.

A longtime supporter of affordable housing, he said he is amazed at the estimated cost for the Kuehn’s Way project.

“I’d like to see affordable housing done at a lower cost per square foot if at all possible,” he said.

He also supports the Tisbury School staying where it is, which limits the new infrastructure needed. “At the existing location it’s a developed property already,” he said.

He said he liked that students can walk to school and reminisced fondly about spending his own formative years there. Turning an eye to school spending, he is skeptical about the level of fiscal responsibility at the high school and said he is interested in looking at the equitability of the town’s share of high school expenses.

Dedicating his time to public service just seemed obvious for Mr. Rogers, who is related by marriage to the late Cora Medeiros, a former selectman and unofficial town matriarch.

“Thirty-seven years ago I married Cora Medeiros’ daughter, and that didn’t hurt my interest in town government,” he said.