In the words of its chairman, the Dukes County Charter Study Commission is on a path toward making decisions.
At their regular meeting on Feb. 14, the group, which is charged with reviewing the structure of county government and making recommendations for its future, voted to retain staggered four-year terms for members of the Dukes County Commission.
Study group members were divided into three camps. Some argued to retain four-year terms for county commissioners, others to reduce the term to two years and a small minority was interested in seeking out special legislation to create three-year terms.
“I believe county government is on trial,” member Tad Crawford said. “It seems to me really smart when the commission is on trial to have two-year terms.”
Mimi Davisson agreed. “We have a better chance of finding candidates with two-year terms,” she said. Mrs. Davisson also pointed out that members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission are appointed to two-year terms.
Tristan Israel, a current county commissioner, Tisbury selectman and member of the study group, spearheaded the contingent in favor of three-year terms, a change which would require special legislation. By state law, county commissioners serve terms for an even number of years. “Everything we’re doing is because we’re afraid [of legislation],” Mr. Israel said.
In the end, the group voted 8-4 in favor of four-year terms. “I want good, qualified volunteers who can survive the long haul,” said Jeff Kristal of Tisbury, who voted with the majority. Mr. Israel abstained.
The group then voted unanimously to recommend commissioners continue to serve staggered terms.
The vote could be seen as one of confidence for the current makeup of the commission, composed of seven commissioners who serve staggered four-year terms. At a meeting the previous week, the study group voted to retain a seven-member commission, with no more than two commissioners serving from one town. They also voted to elect those commissioners through at-large elections, the way county elections are now conducted.
On Thursday, Mr. Israel criticized the continuity. “We’re taking the path of least resistance,” he said.
Vice-chairman Paddy Moore disagreed. “There is a fear amongst us that we have to make our impact by doing something different,” she said. “We should do what we think is right, not just something different.”
The next meeting of the charter study commission is Thursday, Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. in the Oak Bluffs Senior Center. The meetings are open to the public.