This year's race for the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen matches two veteran leaders against two challengers relatively new to the political arena.
Both the incumbents have long ties to the community and have served on a number of town boards and commissions.
Gregory Coogan is a longtime teacher seeking his second term as selectman.
Roger Wey previously owned a construction company and is now the director on the council on aging. He is seeking his sixth term on the board.
While one of the incumbents, Christine Catherine Todd, currently serves on the zoning board of appeals, she has never sought elected office.
The fourth candidate, challenger McKinley Starks, has never been appointed to or run for political office.
When voters go to the polls on April 13, they will determine who fills the two open seats on the five-member board. Voting takes place at the Oak Bluffs Public Library from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Unlike previous elections, the candidates this year find themselves campaigning during a relatively tranquil period in Oak Bluffs politics. Among the larger issues on the table is the municipal campus proposal, which calls for clustering buildings such as a new town hall and police department in the area near the library on the corner of Pacific avenue and School street. All four candidates say they support the plan, which voters will consider in a nonbinding resolution at town meeting.
With 18 years of experience in Oak Bluffs government, Mr. Wey has watched the town go through a number of changes, and feels the lack of contentious issues this year is a positive sign.
He vividly remembers the sharp divisions that arose among residents over the proposal to build a golf course in the Southern Woodlands, and the townwide debate about leaving the Martha's Vineyard Commission in 2003.
"I think things have changed over the past few years. We have a lot of good things going on, and a lot to look forward to," he said.
He noted that the budget is balanced for the fourth year in a row, and that plans are moving forward for improvements at the Steamship Authority wharf and ferry terminal.
If reelected, Mr. Wey wants to work on creating affordable housing opportunities for Vineyarders, and wants to help improve water quality around the Island.
Even after six terms in office, Mr. Wey is still excited to serve as a selectman: "After 16 years, you get to know just about everyone. You go to the market and everyone wants to ask about this thing or that thing. But I don't mind at all. It's an honor to serve the people of this town," he said.
Mr. Coogan, 57, is also a veteran of Oak Bluffs politics, having served on the board of selectmen, conservation commission and MVC.
Mr. Coogan is also pleased with the direction the town is heading.
When he took office three years ago, the town was still largely divided by the golf course issue; in fact, a month after his election voters went to the polls to decide whether the town should withdraw from the MVC. One of Mr. Coogan's goals was to help mend the rift between residents, and move the town into a new era.
"We had to get a lot of people on the same side of the fence again. I think people were tired of seeing bad news about Oak Bluffs every time they picked up the newspaper," said Mr. Coogan, adding:
"I think as a town we are in a much better place now."
Mr. Coogan said he is committed to affordable housing, and wants the town to explore clean energy initiatives that would help protect the environment while lessening dependence on foreign oil.
He supports bringing alternative energy sources to the Island, such as a land-based windmill and solar cells.
"It's easy for anyone to sit there and say, ‘I support protecting the environment,' because everyone probably feels that way. But we need to make it a priority here on the Island. The Island is such a fragile place," said Mr. Coogan.
Although the two challengers have never served on the board of selectmen, both view their outsider status as a positive thing.
"I don't have any type of agenda. I'm only interested in what's good for this town," said Ms. Todd.
Ms. Todd, 47, moved to the Vineyard six years ago. She served on the master plan committee when she lived in Littletown, and has worked in the sales industry for the past 14 years. She was the director of sales at a large textile company and works here as a Realtor.
She is confident her business background would be an asset to the board.
"I'd like to think I'm an effective facilitator and problem solver. Experience has taught me the importance of listening to people and determining their needs," said Ms. Todd.
If elected, she would like to reduce the tax burden on residents and explore alternative sources of revenue for town services.
She wants to examine vacant properties that do not generate any income, and would like to see the town aggressively seek state and federal grants.
Like the other candidates, Ms. Todd wants the town to take a more active role in creating affordable housing. She also wants to do more to clean-up town parks and beaches.
With two teenage children in the school system, she said education is one of her primary interests.
"We are lucky to have such fine schools. We should do whatever it takes to continue to improve the quality of education for our children," said Ms. Todd.
The other challenger, Mr. Starks, said his lack of political ties would allow him to act in the people's best interest.
"I don't bring any baggage to the table because I don't owe anything to anyone," said Mr. Starks.
Not that Mr. Starks is unfamiliar with the goings on at town hall - he works as the town custodian, which affords him a unique perspective on government: "I get to talk to everyone in town hall every day, so I really am doing more than cleaning up the building. I'm kind of like the town psychologist," he said.
Mr. Starks moved here three years ago after retiring from the business he owned with his wife in New Jersey. But he found it difficult to deal with so much free time.
"To be honest, I got bored. I'm a people person and I wanted to be around people again," he said.
Mr. Starks said he has learned to appreciate how special the town of Oak Bluffs is.
"This is the best place in the world. And I have the best job on the Island," he said.
A former marine, Mr. Starks said his experience in the military and as a former business owner makes him well suited to be a selectman.
One of his biggest priorities if elected would be to create new programs for the seniors. He feels more can be done to lower taxes and to get people more involved in town government.
"Everyone should be involved in the future of their town. The only time you're supposed to look down on someone is when your picking them up," he said.