Three candidates for a single seat on the Tisbury select board took part in a public forum Thursday night, organized by the League of Women Voters of Martha’s Vineyard.

Incumbent Abbe Burt, who was elected in January to complete the end of former select board member Larry Gomez’s term, is being challenged for the second time this year by Christina Colarusso, with first-time candidate MacAleer Schilcher making it a three-way race.

A retiree who moved to Tisbury more than two decades ago, Ms. Burt cited her government experience as West Tisbury’s executive secretary, town accountant and finance and advisory committee chair during her 25 years living there.

She’s also committed to housing, Ms. Burt said.

Incumbent Abbe Burt said she was committed to easing the town's housing crunch. — Ray Ewing

“I was on the [affordable] housing committee in West Tisbury and then got the one in Vineyard Haven going again,” she said, noting that she prefers the term “community housing.”

In 2005, Ms. Burt said, she spearheaded the campaign to establish the Community Preservation Act — a state program with matching funds for open space, historic preservation, recreation and affordable housing — in all six Island towns.

“We also, in the same campaign, ran a vote and town meeting vote on establishing the housing bank … and here we are 18 years later,” Ms. Burt said.

The 2005 measure passed at all six town meetings but failed on Beacon Hill, she said, expressing optimism that with more Massachusetts towns joining in, the current legislation has a better chance.

“We’re very hopeful that this time the state will see it fit to allow the towns to establish housing banks,” Ms. Burt said.

Ms. Colarusso, who trailed Ms. Burt by just a handful of votes in the January special election, is a Massachusetts Maritime Academy graduate who moved to Tisbury year-round after college following more than a decade as a summer resident.

In her early summers, she said, she volunteered at Camp Jabberwocky and learned tennis on the town courts, later becoming a Tisbury lifeguard before switching to Chilmark’s beach staff for higher pay.

“I had to make the move because I was paying for my high school education, and then later on paying for my own college education,” she said.

After earning her bachelor’s of science in marine engineering in 2012, Ms. Colarusso called the Vineyard home while she worked chiefly aboard ships at sea for five years.

She also served as a traffic officer in Chilmark for three years, spent two years as assistant harbormaster in Edgartown and continues to teach swimming at the YMCA, said Ms. Colarusso, who now is the facilities manager for the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Christina Colarusso is running for select board again after losing by a handful of votes in a special election earlier this year. — Ray Ewing

“I’m also a water and a wastewater operator,” she said.

“It was everything I was doing on a boat but on land, and I could be on the Vineyard,” Ms. Colarusso added.

Just before Covid arrived in 2020, she said, she was appointed Tisbury’s emergency manager and subsequently managed the distribution of personal protective equipment to first responders Island-wide.

“I’ve written grants, I’ve written policies, I’ve written procedures,” Ms. Colarusso said.

In Tisbury, she has served on the public works, wastewater and sewer advisory committees.

“I’ve been on committees, I’ve been a town employee, but I think to impart real change I needed to step up and try to be a select board member so that we can put some more policies in place to make sure we are sailing our ship in the right direction,” Ms. Colarusso said.

Displaying his second-grade report card and his eighth-grade yearbook from the Tisbury School, Mr. Schilcher introduced himself as a lifelong and devoted resident who doesn’t agree with the direction Tisbury is taking.

“This whole town is a mess,” he said. “There’s no communication and there’s no openness.”

Mr. Schilcher is the youngest son of established Island caterer Jamie Hamlin and a former all-state football player for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School who was recruited to play Division 1AA ball at Wagner College.

His most recent job was as a regional sales director for a beverage company, he said.

Select board candidate MacAleer Schilcher, pictured here with a grade school report card, said he doesn't like the direction the town is headed in. — Ray Ewing

In his remarks, Mr. Schilcher aired grievances against the town’s police department, and said he believes the select board illegally imposed a ban on anchoring in Lake Tashmoo, where he is currently keeping his boat.

After the candidates’ opening remarks, several of the two dozen audience members posed questions for all three to answer.

Asked how the select board could work more effectively with Tisbury’s many committees, both Ms. Burt and Ms. Colarusso said improvements to the town website, which doesn’t always list every meeting, would foster better communication.

Discussing town infrastructure, Mr. Schilcher told the audience he has uncovered a third outfall pipe at the end of Beach street extension that he believes is the solution to Five Corners flooding.

“I’ve been digging it out the last three days … I had to move jetty stones,” he said, holding up a tablet with photos.

On housing, Ms. Burt raised the possibility of a large apartment building on State Forest land and Mr. Schilcher expressed an interest in youth lots, a program in Chilmark that makes smaller properties available to young Island buyers.

Ms. Colarusso said she’d like to see more affordable housing that can be owned, rather than rented.

“Our model of rentals ... is not actually creating generational wealth,” she said. “Ownership should be the goal.”

Thursday’s forum also included appearances by several candidates who are running unopposed on the May 9 ballot.

The event was moderated by Bob Laskowski and introduced by Kathy Laskowski, who told the audience that a video recording of the two-hour event will be screened on Channel 13 before the election.