He's a crowd favorite in the polling booths but back on his own board, Oak Bluffs selectman Roger Wey can't get a break.
One week after handily winning a sixth term as selectman in the Island's most hotly contested race, Mr. Wey faced an ice-cold reception from his colleagues who want to block the popular selectman from taking over chairmanship of the board.
Three of the five selectmen are now poised to violate their own board policy if it means keeping Mr. Wey out and leaving the reins with selectman Todd Rebello.
By the end of Tuesday night's meeting, residents were hurling insults at selectmen for snubbing Mr. Wey and blaming the action on politics around the May 13 vote for the town to withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission.
Mr. Wey - like the other top two vote-getters in the seven-way race for selectmen - adamantly supports staying in the commission.
It was hardly a smooth beginning to the year for the new board, joined this week by freshman selectman Greg Coogan who netted 638 votes to win a seat on the board.
But the sparks didn't start flying until Kerry Scott, a resident who attended the meeting, pointed out that selectmen were about to breach their own policies if they handed the chairmanship for a second year in a row to Mr. Rebello.
Selectmen traditionally elect a new chairman at their first meeting after the annual election, as prescribed in the board's own policies and procedures, an eight-page document approved in 1997. The chairman is in charge of setting the agenda for meetings.
Tuesday night, selectman Michael Dutton nominated Mr. Rebello to serve another year as chairman. Mr. Rebello has been a selectman for only one year.
"In the last year, you've done a pretty decent job and kept us out of harm's way," said Mr. Dutton. Selectman Richard Combra, Mr. Rebello's uncle, seconded the nomination.
But then Mr. Wey took a bold step, nominating himself for the chairman post. Members of the audience - no more than a dozen people - applauded his statement. "With my experience, I could really help this board," he said.
Mr. Combra then seconded Mr. Wey's nomination and motioned to close the nomination process.
Selectmen were just about ready to vote on the two nominations when Ms. Scott called out to Mr. Rebello, raising a point of order and holding in her outstretched hand a clutch of white papers. "Selectmen regulations prohibit the chairman from serving two consecutive terms," she said.
She approached the board and handed the document to town administrator Casey Sharpe. For several minutes, Ms. Sharpe and board members pored over the document as if it was the first time they had ever seen it. Under the heading Organization of the Board, the policy sheet clearly states: "The chairman shall not serve two consecutive years in any given term."
Mr. Combra, who was one of five selectmen to sign the policy six years ago, spoke first: "The chairmanship of the board of selectmen should be the will of the board of selectmen. I question whether a previous board should be determining who serves for the board."
He then threw his support behind Mr. Rebello and advocated rewriting the rules. "The efforts of the chairman and the executive secretary allowed us to be highly successful this year," he said. "I would much prefer to look closely at our regulations."
Mr. Wey, who also was the top vote-getter when he ran three years ago, then jumped back into the fray. "It just seems like this is a reflection on me," he said.
"I've served 15 years and been chairman many times," Mr. Wey said. "But if you want to avoid the regulations and it's the will of the majority of the board, I'll accept it."
The only selectman to come to Mr. Wey's aid was Mr. Coogan, who called for the nomination process to be reopened. "Personally, I believe revolving the chair is a healthy thing for the board."
But Mr. Dutton called for a postponement, and selectmen voted 3-2 to grant the motion. Mr. Wey and Mr. Coogan voted against it, but the awkward scene was far from over.
The public comment period was only minutes away, and Joanne Philbrick was the first resident in attendance to unleash her anger on the selectmen.
"I'm ashamed of you people. The right thing to do was to appoint Roger chairman. He had an outstanding vote and people have confidence in him," she said. "This doesn't sit right with the voters. People are really starting to question this good-old-boy system.
"The reason Roger isn't going to be chairman is because of his viewpoint on the commission. You serve at the will of the voters, and the people are fed up with it. You can change your regulations but not the viewpoint of the voters."
Mr. Combra then shot back: "We are not bound to any vote in town to say who they will make chairman. . . . And it has nothing to do with the Martha's Vineyard Commission. I am not going to be bullied into a decision I am not comfortable with, and I will support changing the regulations so they meet my needs."
Ms. Scott told the selectmen she was "disappointed and shocked" by their action. She urged them to consider the thought that the previous board of selectmen put into their policies. "The whole point is that the influence on the board of selectmen should not be vested in one person," she said. "It's about the potential for abuse of power."
Gretchen Maher then told selectmen: "There's something fishy about this, and it will be noticed."
This is not the first time that Oak Bluffs selectmen have touched off a controversy on the way to naming a new chairman. Three years ago, selectmen voted 3-2 to bypass former selectman and vice-chairman John Leite 3rd and name Kenneth Rusczyk to the chairmanship.
And similarly, the reason behind the move appeared to be linked to the heated politics around the proposed Down Island Golf Club, the development project that was rejected three times by the Martha's Vineyard Commission. Mr. Leite was an outspoken opponent of the golf course and accused selectmen of benefitting financially from their support of the golf proposal.
On a related issue earlier in Tuesday's meeting, Mr. Wey called on his board to invite town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport to the April 29 public forum intended to inform voters about the May 13 vote, which will decide whether the town secedes from the commission.
Mr. Rebello wanted to have the legal representation of Mark Bobrowski, the town's special counsel on land-use issues. Selectmen disagreed about whether both attorneys were free of conflict of interest issues.
Mr. Wey pointed out that Mr. Bobrowski was the attorney who drafted the town's so-called settlement agreement with golf developer Corey Kupersmith, a plan signed by four of the five selectmen who charged the MVC was an impediment to building a golf course in the southern woodlands.
At an earlier meeting, selectmen confirmed money from Mr. Kupersmith was provided to help the town to pay legal expenses for the creation of the document.
Meanwhile, as the vote nears, a second citizens group has formed and plans to advocate for withdrawal from the commission. Called the Citizens for the Protection of Oak Bluffs (CPOB), the group views leaving the MVC as a way to assert local control over development in town. One other citizen group is working actively to keep Oak Bluffs in the Martha's Vineyard Commission.